January 14, 2000
A Missile Is a Missile
Spy Photos of Korea Missile Site Bring Dispute (Jan. 11, 2000)
To the Editor:
A secret North Korean missile base recently revealed in photographs taken by a private spy satellite cannot be wished away because of its minimal creature comforts ("Spy Photos of Korea Missile Site Bring Dispute," news article, Jan. 11). Skeptics are correct when they note that the site is crude. But crudity does not mean incapabili-ty, as we learned about Soviet weapons.
John E. Pike of the Federation of American Scientists is mistaken when he declares that if a site is not up to United States standards, it is not a threat.
The photos reveal that North Korea is not a "mouse that roared" but rather a country that has impoverished itself to create a very real and very dangerous capability. Paved roads and staff housing do not a nuclear threat make. A launching capability, no matter how crude, does.
MARK M. LOWENTHAL
Reston, Va., Jan. 11, 2000
The writer was deputy assistant secretary of state for intelligence, 1988-89.