General says North Korea could test new intercontinental missile ‘in the near future’


The head of U.S. Northern Command says North Korea may begin testing an improved intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) “in the near future.”

Air Force Gen. Glen VanHerck said in prepared testimony before the Senate Armed Services panel that North Korea “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.”

“They’re up to three missiles that we assess could strike our homeland,” VanHerck told reporters at a Pentagon briefing later Tuesday, saying one missile was put on display during an Oct. 10 parade in North Korea.

North Korea announced in 2018 that it would temporarily halt tests involving ICBMs and nuclear weapons, as the Trump administration sought to rein in its nuclear program.

However, increased vehicular activity has been reported at a location with a history of missile launches, a Defense official told NBC News. The outlet reported that there is no sign of an imminent launch, but U.S. officials are still monitoring the situation.

“North Korea’s continued development of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction represent a threat to U.S. interests and the security of our allies and partners,” Pentagon Spokesperson Lt. Col. Martin Meiners told The Hill. “In the near term, DoD, in close coordination with allies and partners, will seek to deter negative behavior from North Korea.”

When asked how worried he was about reports of North Korea potentially testing a new generation of intercontinental missiles, VanHerck said he thinks the department has a “good posture for deterrence.”

“We always maintain the ability to defend our homeland and, obviously, the right to defend the homeland,” he said. “We’re postured each and every day through ground-based interceptors which create deterrence by denial.”

He continued, “I’ll go back to the foundation of our defense and homeland defense is our nuclear triad and our nuclear deterrence capabilities. Take the nuclear deterrence capabilities, combine that with our ground-based interceptors and ballistic missile capabilities and I think we have a good posture for deterrence.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that officials have reached out to North Korea through “a number of channels, as we always have had” but have not received any response.

She added the administration has and will “continue to engage with other Japanese and South Korean allies to solicit input, explore fresh approaches.”

Psaki noted that “this follows over a year without active dialogue with North Korea, despite multiple attempts by the U.S. to engage,” adding “diplomacy remains our, continues to remain our first priority.” 

Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of Kim Jong Un who holds a high-ranking position in North Korea’s sole political party, later issued a statement warning the White House against “causing a stink with its first step.”

“We take this opportunity to warn the new US administration trying hard to give off powder smell in our land,” she said, according to CNN, which cited North Korea’s state news agency. “If it wants to sleep in peace for [the] coming four years, it had better refrain from causing a stink at its first step.”

Updated at 3:50 p.m.

Tags Glen VanBerck Intercontinental ballistic missiles Jen Psaki Kim Jong Un Nuclear weapons US-North Korea relations
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