North Korea may be close to testing an intercontinental ballistic missile, state media suggested Saturday.
In recent months, North Korea has been testing a variety of missiles at an unprecedented pace. Over the past few weeks, the North has tested four new systems.
North Korea has reliable short- and mid-range ballistic missiles, and its new intermediate-range ballistic missile has a range just short of an intercontinental ballistic missile and could comfortably hit Guam. The North also has successfully tested new anti-ship cruise missiles.
As these tests have been successful, the next step appears to be the development of an ICBM.
“The series of recent strategic weapons tests show that we are not too far away from test-firing an intercontinental ballistic missile,” the Rodong Sinmun, the official paper of the ruling party, said.
After the successful test of the Hwasong-12 IRBM, possibly the technological predecessor to, if not a stage of, an eventual liquid-fueled North Korean ICBM, the South Korean defense minister declared that the North’s missile program is progressing much faster than initially expected.
North Korea is believed to have figured out how to mount a miniaturized nuclear bomb on a ballistic missile, the re-entry vehicle is suspected to have survived the IRBM test, and the North’s engine technology has improved. North Korea is likely still several years away from a reliable ICBM, but it is checking off a number of key boxes in the research and development process.
“The great success of test-firing an intercontinental ballistic missile, which we are sure to achieve, will mark a historic watershed moment in the failure of the U.S. hostile policy against us,” North Korean state media claimed, asserting that a nuclear-armed long-range missile would guarantee a viable nuclear deterrence strategy. “Historically speaking, the U.S. has never dared to go to war with a country that possesses nuclear weapons or ICBMs.”
North Korea has tested 16 missiles this year, 17 if the recent surface-to-air missile test is also included, with only four test failures. Kim Jong Un has a clear plan he intends to carry out at all costs, and his country is rapidly moving in that direction.
“We have reached the final stage of preparations to test-launch an intercontinental ballistic missile,” Kim said in his New Year’s address, adding that, “Research and development of cutting edge arms equipment is actively progressing.”
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