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ICBM launch test close says North korea kim

North Korean
leader Kim Jong Un said on Sunday that the isolated, nuclear-capable
country was close to test-launching an intercontinental ballistic
missile (ICBM).
North
Korea tested ballistic missiles at an unprecedented rate during 2016,
although some experts have said it is years away from developing an ICBM
fitted with a nuclear warhead capable of reaching the United States.

“Research
and development of cutting edge arms equipment is actively progressing
and ICBM rocket test launch preparation is in its last stage,” Kim said
during a televised New Year’s Day speech.

The country has been under U.N. sanctions since
2006 over its nuclear and ballistic missile tests. The sanctions were
tightened last month after Pyongyang conducted its fifth and largest
nuclear test on Sept. 9.

A successful ICBM test launch would
mark a significant step forward for secretive Pyongyang’s weapons
capability. ICBMs have a minimum range of about 5,500 km (3,418 miles),
but some are designed to travel 10,000 km (6,214 miles) or further.
California is roughly 9,000 km (5,592 miles) from North Korea.

However,
North Korea has struggled to reliably deploy its intermediate-range
Musudan ballistic missile, succeeding just once in eight attempted
launches last year.

U.S.
State Department spokeswoman Anna Richey-Allen on Sunday called on North
Korea “to refrain from provocative actions and inflammatory rhetoric
that threaten international peace and stability, and to make the
strategic choice to fulfil its international obligations and commitments
and return to serious talks.”

She
urged “All states to use every available channel and means of influence
to make clear to the DPRK and its enablers that launches using
ballistic missile technology are unacceptable, and take steps to show
there are consequences to the DPRK’s unlawful conduct.”

The
Musudan is designed to fly about 3,000 km (1,860 miles), posing a
threat to South Korea and Japan, and possibly the U.S. territory of
Guam.

South Korea’s Defence Ministry declined to comment on whether North Korea would test launch an ICBM soon.

TRUMP REQUESTED NORTH KOREA BRIEFING

According
to a senior U.S. intelligence official, President-elect Donald Trump’s
first, and at that time only, request for a special classified
intelligence briefing was for one on North Korea and its nuclear weapons
programme.

North Korea
and its nuclear programme has also been of interest to retired
Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, Trump’s choice for national security
advisor and a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

An
Chan-il, a former North Korean military officer who defected to the
South and runs a think tank in Seoul, said Kim will gauge Trump’s
comments about his country for potential interest in dialogue and
determine whether to try and conduct an ICBM test launch.

“If
Trump comes in and the North does not get a good signal in terms of how
the relationship between the two countries is going to go, that’ll give
them another reason to do it,” An said.

Kim also said that the North would
continue to develop its pre-emptive nuclear strike capability if the
United States and South Korea continue to conduct annual joint military
exercises.

There are
28,500 U.S. troops based in South Korea, and North Korean state media
often describes annual joint exercises as preparation for an attack.

In
February, North Korea launched a satellite into space, which was widely
seen as a test of long-range ballistic missile technology.

A
senior U.S. military official said last month that North Korea appears
able to mount a miniaturised nuclear warhead on a missile but is still
struggling with missile re-entry technology necessary for longer range
strikes.

Although it fired
a variety of missile types last year, North Korea is not known to have
test-launched a ballistic missile since October.
 

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