More News:

July 08, 2017

Delaware senator thinks North Korea could reach U.S. with missile 'within two years'

A U.S. senator from Delaware said North Korea could harness a nuclear weapon capable of hitting the United States within two years.

"We don't have a lot of time," Chris Coons, a Democrat, told CNN on Friday. "I think we're in a race against time, and frankly a race that we may well lose."

Pamela Brown, sitting in for anchor Jake Tapper on CNN's "The Lead," pressed Coons further about his two-years timeframe in which North Korea could develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the states.

"That's just a rough guess," he said. "In open source reporting, that's been talked about as the time it likely will take them."

Coons' statements came as tensions between the U.S. and North Korea, officially named the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, rose again this week.

Early in the week, North Korea tested an ICBM for the first time that experts say could reach Alaska. The country vowed Wednesday to never give up its missiles or nuclear weapons and to keep sending Washington more "gift packages" of weapons tests.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said this week that the U.S. response would include stronger measures to hold North Korea accountable.

Coons admitted Pyongyang's test "took a number of us by surprise."

This is very risky for the United States," Coons said. "We need to be focused on this and we need to bring all of our resources to bear."

Coons said China hasn't done enough to reign in its neighboring country to the east.

"The key country here is China. This is China's problem," Coons said. "But China hasn't yet taken tough enough actions to actually impose some costs on North Korea for its destabilizing action."

Brown asked why Coons was confident that China will take action.

"I'm not confident. In fact, I'm not even optimistic," Coons deadpanned. "I'm concerned that China is balancing their concern that if the North Korean regime collapses they'll have a humanitarian crisis on the border and lose a key ally versus their concern that the rest of the world will coalesce around making them pay a high price."