April 15, 2021 11:01
U.S. intelligence officials believe North Korea will test another nuclear weapon or intercontinental ballistic missile this year as leader Kim Jong-un seeks to gain negotiation leverage.
The North halted nuclear and ICBM tests in 2018 amid a brief honeymoon with then-U.S. President Donald Trump. The prediction is part of an annual report released on Tuesday by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees 18 intelligence agencies.
The report names North Korea, China, Russia and Iran as presenting major threats to the U.S. Kim "may take a number of aggressive and potentially destabilizing actions to reshape the regional security environment and drive wedges between the United States and its allies -- up to and including the resumption of nuclear weapons and [ICBM] testing," it says.
"Kim also aims to achieve his goals of gaining prestige, security and acceptance as a nuclear power through conventional military modernization efforts, nuclear weapon and missile development, foreign engagement, sanctions-evasion, and cyber capabilities," it adds.
It warns that Kim "probably does not view the current level of pressure on his regime as enough to require a fundamental change in its approach." In other words, the current sanctions are not enough to get the North to scrap its nuclear weapons.
But there is hope of further talks. Kim has "thus far has not conducted long-range missile testing and has left the door open to future denuclearization talks" with Washington. If so, he "may be considering whether to resume long-range missile or nuclear testing this year to try to force the United States to deal with him on Pyongyang's terms."
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