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NORTHCOM General 'Amazed' at North Korea's Rapid Missile Advances

While its technology has yet to catch up to its ambitions, North Korea's frequent missile testing shows the true intent of the country's supreme leader Kim Jong-Un, the head of Northern Command said Wednesday.

"Even in my very short time in NORTHCOM and my very short time of watching what he's doing, the amount of things that he's increased in his capability and capacity has been amazing," Gen. Lori Robinson told audiences at the Women in Defense National Conference in Washington, D.C.

"We look at the fact that he's tested 30 percent more than his father and grandfather combined," Robinson said, referring to former leaders Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung.

Robinson -- the first female officer to command a major U.S. COCOM and to head North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) -- said the most impressive feats are his speed and the fact that Un "is not afraid to fail in public."

"We should worry -- and I know we are -- but I watch what his capability is and obviously he's working very hard and I know he's going to work very hard on his capacity -- but we can see a ton of intent," she said.

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U.S. leaders and experts in recent months have warned that it's only a matter of time before North Korea figures out how to fasten a nuclear warhead to an intercontinental ballistic missile.

There are, however, shortfalls: the country has yet to develop a way to properly fuse a nuke-ICBM which can "withstand the fiery heat and great violence of atmospheric reentry," according to a report from The New York Times.

Robinson added, "I worry about his intent."

As the commander of NORTHCOM, she reassured she "is confident in [the military's] ability to defend the United States."

"That doesn't mean we stop here. That means we continue to work on better discriminating sensors; that means we continue to work on reliability of kill vehicles; that means we continue to work on our ground-based interceptors," she said.

Moving forward with Canada

In February, Robinson said the U.S. and Canada launched a "binational steering group to manage the eventual replacement of the North Warning System, which is our network of surveillance radars across Alaska and northern Canada" to protect against cruise missile threats posed by countries such as Russia and North Korea.

"If I look at the capability and capacity of Russian bombers at the time and over time how things have changed...things have changed," Robinson said Wednesday.

"I need to be able to detect, track, ID and engage at ranges that defend Canada and the U.S.," she said.

The U.S. and Canada together operate the North Warning System -- formerly the Distant Early Warning, or DEW, line -- consisting of 47 unmanned long- and short-range radar stations that stretch across Newfoundland to Alaska. The DEW line was established during the 1950s to protect the northern territories from Russian missile advances.

The Pentagon in recent years has been quietly working on a network defense system plan to intercept and shoot down low-flying missiles, according to a 2015 DefenseOne analysis. The plan would access additional radars that -- in a blitz-style attack -- would tip fighter jets, surface-to-air missiles or sea-based missile to locate and "shoot down fast and low-flying missiles," DefenseOne said.

Together with the U.S. Air Force's Air Combat Command, NORAD/NORTHCOM is composing "an analysis of alternatives, and we're just beginning that work, and I think we should [be expecting] that work either this winter or next spring," Robinson said.

Robinson could not provide details as to what requirements or analyses the two COCOMs are identifying.

To avoid erroneous enhancements, "The last thing I want to do is say, 'Upgrade the radar,'" she said.

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