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Scientists Doubt Rogue Nations' Missiles Can Hit US

PEDRO UGARTE/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- With North Korea reportedly preparing to conduct perhaps as many as two illicit nuclear tests, South Korea is on full military alert while the U.S. scrambles for a response.

This is happening on top of a recent rocket launch by Pyongyang and perhaps one by Iran that suggest that each might be able to deliver a nuclear warhead that could potentially threaten the entire world.

Experts agree that both North Korea and Iran have made progress in their bid to develop long-range missile technology but there's also no reason to panic unnecessarily, at least in the U.S., according to scientists quoted in a article.

Joan Johnson-Freese, professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., contends neither launch by Pyongyang or Tehran "is evidence of an increased imminent threat to the United States."

Johnson-Freese mentioned North Korea's Unha-3 launch that can reach a target at least 6,200 miles away.  But she argues, "Do I think that putting a satellite in orbit really demonstrated that they can hit Hawaii accurately with a nuclear weapon on board?  No.  Does it take them a step closer in capabilities?  Yes.  But these are exponential steps.  They're not easy steps."

Michael Elleman, a missile defense expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, estimates that Iran wouldn't be able to strike the United States until 2020 at the earliest but nations neighboring Iran are in more imminent danger.

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