N. Korea likely to continue provocations, threats in 2023: U.S. intelligence official
By Byun Duk-kun
WASHINGTON, Jan. 26 (Yonhap) -- North Korea is well expected to continue making provocations and nuclear threats this year following its unprecedented number of missile tests in 2022 as it seeks to leverage its military capabilities diplomatically, a U.S. intelligence official insisted Thursday.
Sydney Seiler, top intelligence official for North Korea at the National Intelligence Council, also noted that Pyongyang will likely conduct its much anticipated nuclear test if and when it sees the need to.
"So when you look at where we are today, it obviously makes sense to look at what's transpired the past year," Seiler said in a webinar hosted by the Center for Strategic and Intelligence Studies, a think tank based in Washington.
North Korea fired over 90 missiles in 2022, including 69 ballistic missiles that marked the largest number ballistic missiles fired in a single year. The North's previous annual record of ballistic missile launches was 25.
"Bottom line up front, (20)22 should not have surprised us as we have looked at the evolution of the North Korean nuclear threat, in terms of capabilities and intent, and how North Korea is intending to leverage its nuclear capabilities in the diplomatic realm," said Seiler.
"So we move through this pattern of announcing capabilities as possible parading capabilities, demonstrating them, fielding, developing the doctrine and training them so that, you know, gradually the deterrent becomes more real, more established and more threatening and more valuable to the North diplomatically," he added.
Seiler noted the North will seek to continue building on its nuclear leverage this year with more provocations and threats directed toward South Korea and the Yoon Suk Yeol administration.
"I would imagine it will be accompanied by a full choreography of doom and gloom for the Republic of Korea (ROK), the inevitability of the failure of the Yoon administration's so-called hardline policy, and, you know, again the futility of any efforts to try to denuclearize North Korea," he said, referring to South Korea by its official name.
"These are the types of events that, not surprisingly, we look forward to in the coming year," added the U.S. intelligence official.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un called for an "exponential" growth of the country's nuclear arsenal at a key meeting of the ruling Workers' Party held late last year.
Seiler emphasized the importance of enhancing joint military capabilities of South Korea and the U.S., saying, "When the ROK and the United States enhance their deterrence, it is a bitter disappointment for North Korea who had thought they were achieving some degree of, again, dominance, or, you know, they have rectified some perceived vulnerabilities in the balance of power and then suddenly they erode as these capabilities come online."
"The good news is, for now North Korea is understanding of the overwhelming strength of the US-ROK alliance. It is fully aware of our commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea," he added.
North Korea has not proceeded with a seventh nuclear test although it had been widely anticipated since early last year that they would do so.
"They haven't launched because Kim doesn't see a need to launch," said Seiler.
"When you look at the calculation of the development need, the demonstration need, the diplomatic need and the domestic need ... you want to use it in a way that's diplomatically advantageous," he added. "If the goal is to portray a constantly improving, inevitably, exponentially growing nuclear threat, it (a test) is not so critical."
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