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Esper: N. Korea's missile capabilities becoming increasingly complicated

All Headlines 07:02 March 05, 2020

By Lee Haye-ah

WASHINGTON, March 4 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Wednesday that North Korea's ballistic missile capabilities are becoming "increasingly complicated" as the regime seeks to modernize its missile systems.

North Korea fired what appeared to be two short-range ballistic missiles on Monday, according to South Korea's military, the first such launch in about three months.

North Korean media later said it was a long-range artillery firing drill overseen by leader Kim Jong-un.

Esper was asked during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing if the threat of North Korea's ballistic missile capabilities is becoming increasingly dangerous.

This EPA photo shows U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper testifying during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 4, 2020. (Yonhap)

"It's becoming increasingly complicated as they seek to modernize the full range of missile systems," he answered.

Asked if the North's long-range ballistic missiles pose a threat to the United States, he said, "Yes, if our intelligence is correct, they would."

North Korea has not tested a long-range ballistic missile since 2017, after which denuclearization negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang resumed in earnest.

Despite three meetings between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump, the two sides have failed to reach an agreement and talks have stalled.

Trump was asked Tuesday if he had any reaction to the North's latest launch.

"No, I have no reaction," he told reporters during a roundtable briefing on the coronavirus. "Short-term missiles. No. No. None."

The president has dismissed the North's short-range missile tests as unimportant, even though they are banned under U.N. Security Council resolutions, and instead taken credit for Pyongyang's suspension of nuclear and long-range missile tests.

hague@yna.co.kr
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