A U.S. official told CNN that North Korea was working on a new, more advanced version of its KN-20 missile which may have the potential to reach the mainland United States. This version of the intercontinental ballistic missile is only a part of North Korea’s attempts to strengthen its nuclear capability as soon as possible, say U.S. officials acquainted with Kim Jong-un’s program.
The progress North Korea is making on its missiles is forcing the United States to recalculate the timing of North Korea’s possible attack, and reinforces the need to improve the military response options of the U.S. Officials add that further improvements to the regime’s nuclear fuel, guidance and targeting systems and missile launchers are already in progress. This will be one of the points of discussion during President Donald Trump’s visit to Asia.
At the moment, it is widely believed that North Korea could put a miniaturized warhead on an ICBM as early as next year. In response, the U.S. is making adjustments to its military response options, and by the end of 2017, the Pentagon is expected to release the Ballistic Missile Defense Review, thus setting the stage for years of spending billions on modernizing the U.S. nuclear arsenal in order to parry the threat North Korea poses.
The accelerated missile program, officials say, is the reason why so many administration officials are pointing out a threat coming from North Korea, despite attempts to come to a diplomatic solution with the dictatorial regime.
“In terms of a sense of urgency, today, North Korea certainly poses the greatest threat,” the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
Defense Secretary James Mattis is also talking of the danger North Korea “poses to its neighbors and the world through its illegal and unnecessary missile and nuclear weapons programs.”
However, officials noted that the U.S. has already carried out several nuclear tests, thus challenging a nuclear North Korea, even though there is little interest inside military circles for a preemptive strike against North Korea.