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Ex-CIA head on U.S. options after N. Korea's claim of successful ICBM test

Morell on N. Korea ICBM test
Michael Morell: No "good" option to end N. Korea nuclear program 03:03

There are no good options -- diplomatic or military -- to end North Korea's nuclear program after the regime claimed its first ICBM test-launch, CBS News senior national security contributor Michael Morell told "CBS This Morning" on Tuesday.

Pyongyang on Tuesday claimed it launched an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States. Whether that claim is true cannot be determined immediately, said Morell, the former acting and deputy director of the CIA.

"It will take several days for the intelligence community to make an assessment of whether this was an intermediate-range missile or whether this was an intercontinental. That matters here. An intermediate range would not be able to reach Alaska or Hawaii, an ICBM of the type we just saw tested would," Morell said.

Special Report: North Korea claims successful ICBM test 02:30

Asked to assess the significance of choosing to perform the missile test on America's Independence Day, Morell said that North Korean leaders have a history of provocative acts on July 4 -- including the nation's first nuclear test in 2006.

"(Kim Jong Un) seems to think that it has a particular psychological impact on us doing something on July Fourth. It obviously does not. It probably gets less news than he would like on July Fourth. We used to joke at CIA that the only thing doing this on July Fourth does is ruin the holidays of a lot of intelligence analysts. The message he's trying to send is: I can deter the United States of America from attacking me. I can deter them from trying to change the regime. That's the message he's trying to send," Morell said.

In terms of a U.S. response, Morell said there really aren't any without serious implications.

"There is no good option here. There is no military option here to destroy his nuclear program, his missile program. There is no option to do that that wouldn't start a second Korean war and wouldn't raise the possibility of him using nuclear weapons against his neighbors. He's got short range missiles, he has had a lot more time to work to mate a nuclear weapon to those missiles so the risks are extraordinarily high in a military standoff. There's also virtually no diplomatic action here," he said.

What the U.S. can do, Morell said, is focus on missile defense.

"I agree with the sentiment that there is no way that he will ever negotiate away his nuclear weapon program. So there's very little you can do except sanction him every time he does something and build our missile defenses as we're doing in South Korea, in Hawaii, in California, Alaska, to defend ourselves. That is about all we can do in the situation we face here. There are no good options."

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