North Korea has reportedly made improvements to its arsenal of ballistic missiles, even while pushing for talks and a reduction in regional tension.
North Korea appears to have improved missile guidance, a previously problematic development hurdle for the rogue regime, CNN reported Friday, citing an official familiar with the latest intelligent assessments. The North, however, is still struggling to produce a suitable re-entry vehicle to ensure the warhead survives atmospheric re-entry.
North Korea successfully tested around half a dozen new missiles in 2017, including two different intercontinental ballistic missiles. Experts assess that the ICBMs have the theoretical ability to range most, if not all, of the continental U.S., specifically the Hwasong-15 ICBM North Korea tested in late November. But, the regime still has a number of technical obstacles to overcome before it could reliably strike the U.S.
“They are not there yet, but they are close,” President Donald Trump said in mid-January, “And they get closer every day.”
“North Korea’s ever closer to being able to hold America at risk. I said there was a handful of months,” CIA Director Mike Pompeo said a few days later at the American Enterprise Institute.
North Korea has yet to test a ballistic missile or a nuclear device this year, as it has been actively engaging the South in talks since the start. Pyonyang has also offered to have talks with Washington. The two sides, however, are not exactly seeing eye-to-eye on this issue.
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While North Korea talks peace, it appears to be preparing for war, a situation South Korea and the U.S. understand as well.
“If the sanctions don’t work, we’ll have to go phase two,” the president stated recently. “Phase two may be a very rough thing, may be very, very unfortunate for the world.”
The U.S. and South Korea are expected to hold joint military drills this spring to prepare for the possibility of a conflict with North Korea. The exact dates of the drills are presently unknown, but North Korea is already threatening to “counter” the only way it knows how.
“If the U.S. finally holds joint military exercises while keeping sanctions on the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea], the DPRK will counter the U.S. by its own mode of counteraction and the U.S. will be made to own all responsibilities for the ensuing consequences,” North Korean state media said Saturday.
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