South Korea fears that North Korea may announce the completion of its nuclear program last year.
“North Korea has been developing its nuclear weapons at a faster-than-expected pace,” Cho Myoung-gyon, South Korea’s unification minister, told reporters at the Seoul Foreign Correspondents’ Club, “We cannot rule out the possibility that North Korea may declare the completion of its nuclear program in 2018.” The Pentagon assessed this past summer that North Korea will be able to field a reliable, nuclear-capable long-range missile next year.
Next year will mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the North Korean state.
North Korea demonstrated impressive new capabilities in 2017, testing twice successfully the new Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), that can theoretically deliver a nuclear payload to parts, if not most, of the continental U.S. The rogue regime also tested a suspected staged thermonuclear weapon, a purported hydrogen bomb that produced an explosive yield far greater than anything the country has previously tested. The North intends to mount the bomb on its new ICBM.
“That has the capability to destroy a city,” Gen. John Hyten, the head of U.S. Strategic Command, said of the powerful nuclear device the North tested in September. The nuke the North tested literally moved mountains inside the reclusive country.
The North has also tested new short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles and fired missiles over Japan into the Pacific Ocean, establishing a new testing pattern to determine how the weapons perform under more realistic conditions.
North Korea is actively constructing a new ballistic missile submarine, as well as conducting ejection tests to verify the operational capabilities of the cold-launch system for submarine-launched ballistic missile. The North has also conducted multiple rocket engine tests, presumably to advance its missile technology. North Korea has not tested a nuke or missile in over two months, but the North is continuing to advance its offensive capabilities.
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