Peninsula Tensions: North Korea Hints at Continued Nuclear, Missile Provocations
Indications are that North Korea will step up its ballistic missile testing program in spite of increased sanctions from the West and calls for disarmament by China and Russia.
On Monday, representatives from the People's Democratic Republic of Korea (DPRK) announced that they had successfully launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, putting portions of the US mainland in their strike zone.
Pyongyang state-run media asserted that the country will continue to conduct underground nuclear explosions and ballistic missile test launches on its territory, with an eye toward reducing and diversifying weapon size, according to Yonhap.
The announcement came during a Monday meeting in Pyongyang between a senior foreign minister of the DPRK and four diplomats representing southeast Asian nations, including Laos and Vietnam.
As reported by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), DPRK Director of Asian Affairs Pak Jong-hak stated that Pyongyang is stepping up its weapons testing as a means to bolster its own defenses, and is prepared to respond to any attack by the US.
"Until the US and its followers make a right choice," stated Pak, "we will further produce sophisticated and diversified nuclear weapons and striking means and push to prepare for necessary tests," as cited by KCNA.
Sunday's ballistic missile launch by the DPRK was its most powerful display of weaponry to date, indicating that Pyongyang is inching closer to developing an ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) capable of striking any location on Earth with a nuclear payload.
DPRK leader Kim Jong-un declared in January that Pyongyang was preparing for the final stages of testing an ICBM.
Weapons experts cautioned, however, that his remarks were a simple boast, noting that the country was, at a minimum, many years away from possessing the means to deliver a nuclear weapon to the other side of the globe.