Following reports that North Korea was ready to ramp up its nuclear production in 2017, Kim Jong-un himself stirred more fears with his annual New Year’s speech by claiming the nation is in the final stages of testing its first intercontinental ballistic missile. According to the New York Times, North Korea conducted at least 20 ballistic missile tests in 2016 with a successful long-range test in February. The nation has claimed to have missiles that could reach the United States in the past, but its inclusion in Kim’s annual speech raises concerns according to the Times:
In his annual New Year’s Day speech, which was broadcast on the North’s state-run KCTV on Sunday, Mr. Kim spoke proudly of the strides he said his country has made in its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. He said that North Korea would continue to bolster its weapons programs as long as the United States remained hostile and continued its joint military exercises with South Korea.
“We have reached the final stage in preparations to test-launch an intercontinental ballistic rocket,”
Experts claim that another weapons test by North Korea is sure to occur within the early months of the year, perhaps even before the inauguration of Donald Trump later in January. The New York Times points to the Trump presidency and the leadership change in South Korea as one reason North Korea may push up their weapons testing, possibly to gauge what the response will be going forward.
All of this hinges on what we can believe coming out of North Korea and its leadership. Many of the previous claims made by the nation in regards to their ICBM capabilities have been disputed by many in Korea and the United States and cannot be verified. The results of their launches also bring their claims into question according to the New York Times:
North Korea has deployed Rodong ballistic missiles that can reach most of South Korea and Japan, while it has had a spotty record in test-launching the Musudan, its intermediate-range ballistic missile with a range long enough to reach American military bases in the Pacific, including those on Guam…
Last April, North Korea reported the successful ground test of an engine for an intercontinental ballistic missile. At the time, Mr. Kim said the North “can tip new-type intercontinental ballistic rockets with more powerful nuclear warheads and keep any cesspool of evils in the Earth, including the U.S. mainland, within our striking range.”
All of this should pose a unique early test for President Donald Trump and his tough talk on foreign policy. Kim’s speech comes on the heels of North Korea’s strongest nuclear test yet back in early September, while South Korea revealed plans to assassinate Kim Jong-un if the dictatorship becomes a nuclear threat to the world. And while their true capabilities are still in question, North Korea has wasted little time in raising tensions for 2017.
(Via New York Times)