October 18, 2021 12:59
North Korea could be poised to resume tests of nuclear bombs and intercontinental ballistic missiles, a U.S. intelligence agency warns.
In a report released last week, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency said, "Integrating a nuclear weapon with a ballistic missile and enabling that nuclear-armed missile to function reliably as a system is North Korea's ultimate operational goal. Further underground nuclear tests to validate weapon capabilities are possible if North Korea reconstitutes its nuclear test site or establishes a new one."
"North Korea also will work to improve its newer solid-propellant ballistic missiles -- solid fueled missiles can be made ready for launch more quickly than liquid fueled missiles," the report warns. "It is possible we could see a test of a long-range missile over the next year."
North Korea has conducted no nuclear tests since declaring a moratorium in 2017 and has "reversibly dismantled portions of its WMD infrastructure," it adds. "However, we continue to observe activity" at the Yongbyon nuclear facility and elsewhere that is "inconsistent with full denuclearization."
In an inter-Korean summit held on Sept. 19, 2018, the North promised to permanently dismantle the Yongbyon nuclear facility on condition of a reciprocal action from the U.S. But it restarted the facility in July this year. North Korea "is unlikely to give up all of its WMD stockpiles, delivery systems, and production capabilities," the report concludes.
South Korea's chief nuclear negotiator Noh Kyu-duk arrived in Washington a day after the DIA report was released for talks with his U.S. and Japanese counterparts.
State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters last week, "We have made, in fact, specific proposals to [North Korea] and we will await a response." There is speculation that a humanitarian aid package including healthcare and medical assistance, will be announced soon.
Seoul already gained permission from Washington to send humanitarian aid to the North several months ago. But Pyongyang rejected the overture. The impending announcement of "specific proposals" suggests that Pyongyang's attitude has softened recently.
"We've detected signs of a change since last month, when the North hinted at restoring cross-border hotlines and welcomed President Moon Jae-in's proposal to declare a formal end to the Korean War," a government source here said.
But Washington is firmly against easing sanctions, an issue Moon has been pushing in apparent hopes of increasing his own party's chances in next year's presidential election.
- Copyright © Chosunilbo & Chosun.com