By Byun Duk-kun
WASHINGTON, March 16 (Yonhap) -- North Korea has achieved alarming success in its pursuit of nuclear and long-range missile capabilities and continues to expand its arsenal, which includes three ballistic missiles that can reach the U.S. homeland, a U.S. commander said Tuesday.
Gen. Glen VanHerck, commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, also noted the North may resume its long-range missile testing to check the capability of a newly unveiled intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
"The Kim Jong-un regime has achieved alarming success in its quest to demonstrate the capability to threaten the U.S. homeland with nuclear-armed ICBMs, believing such weapons are necessary to deter U.S. military action and ensure his regime's survival," the four-star Air Force general said in a statement submitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee prior to a hearing later in the day.
"In 2017, North Korea successfully tested a thermonuclear device -- increasing the destructive potential of their strategic weapons by an order of magnitude -- as well as three ICBMs capable of ranging the United States," he added.
North Korea staged its sixth and last nuclear test in late 2017 when it said it successfully detonated a hydrogen bomb.
North Korea has since maintained a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile testing.
VanHerck noted the North has already declared that it is no longer bound by such restrictions.
"The North Korean regime has also indicated that it is no longer bound by the unilateral nuclear and ICBM testing moratorium announced in 2018, suggesting that Kim Jong-un may begin flight testing an improved ICBM design in the near future," he wrote.
Pyongyang recently unveiled a larger ICBM and submarine-launched ballistic missile at two military parades in October and January.
The NORTHCOM commander, with headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, said they posed increased threats to the U.S.
"Despite U.S. efforts in 2020 to reach an agreement with Kim Jong-un, North Korea continued its development of ICBMs capable of striking targets in the United States," said VanHerck.
"As North Korea continues its pursuit of advanced long-range strategic weapons including the new systems displayed during their 10 October 2020 parade — USNORTHCOM remains committed to maximizing the capability and capacity of our ballistic missile defense systems."
Korean actor Lee Sun-kyun nominated for best actor at Int'l Emmys for "Dr. Brain"
State auditor notifies ex-Pres Moon of written investigation over death of fisheries official
Yoon's approval rating drops after hot mic incident: poll
(LEAD) No Korean victims reported from Indonesian stadium tragedy: foreign ministry
Chinese aircraft intruded into S. Korea's air defense zone more than 70 times last year: military