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N. Korea may be considering resumption of nuclear testing this year: U.S. report

All News 04:18 April 14, 2021

By Byun Duk-kun

WASHINGTON, April 13 (Yonhap) -- North Korea may be considering whether it should resume its nuclear and long-range missile testing this year as it seeks to deal with the new U.S. administration on its own terms, a U.S. intelligence report said Tuesday.

The report from the Office of Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) also noted North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may take a "number of aggressive" actions.

"Kim 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," said the 2021 report on annual threat assessment.

"North Korean leader Kim Jong-un 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 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) testing," it added.

A new type of a tactical guided missile is launched from the North Korean town of Hamju, South Hamgyong Province, on March 25, 2021, in this photo released by the North's official Korean Central News Agency. South Korea's military said the previous day that the North fired what appeared to be two short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

Still, the report noted the North has left the door open for denuclearization talks, noting the North has yet to resume its nuclear and intercontinental ballistis missiles (ICBM) testing.

"Despite announcing an end to North Korea's self-imposed moratorium on nuclear weapons and ICBM testing in December 2019, Kim thus far has not conducted long-range missile testing and has left the door open to future denuclearization talks with the United States," the report said.

Pyongyang conducted its sixth and last nuclear test in September 2017. It has also maintained a self-imposed moratorium on long-range missile testing since November 2017.

North Korea has resumed its short-range ballistic missile testing after a yearlong hiatus, firing two short-range ballistic missile late last month.

The ODNI report said the North will continue to advance its conventional military capabilities, as well as its nuclear capabilities.

"We assess that Kim views nuclear weapons as the ultimate deterrent against foreign intervention and believes that over time he will gain international acceptance and respect as a nuclear power," said the report. "North Korea will pose an increasing threat to the United States, South Korea, and Japan as it continues to improve its conventional military capabilities, providing Kim with diverse tools to advance his political objectives or inflict heavy losses if North Korea were attacked."

The report comes amid an ongoing review of North Korea policy that Washington earlier said will lead to a "new" approach toward the North.

N. Korea's new ICBM

The unclassified report suggested the level of pressure currently put on North Korea may not be enough to persuade the North to denuclearize.

"He (Kim) probably does not view the current level of pressure on his regime as enough to require a fundamental change in its approach," it said.

In addition to its military capabilities, the North's cyber capabilities also pose a threat to th United States and its allies, the report noted.

"Pyongyang probably possesses the expertise to cause temporary, limited disruptions of some critical infrastructure networks and disrupt business networks in the United States, judging from its operations during the past decade, and it may be able to conduct operations that compromise software supply chains," it said.

bdk@yna.co.kr
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