The US Directorate of National Intelligence (DNI) said in its annual Worldwide Threat Assessment released on Monday that North Korea’s missile launches could pave the way for a return to intercontinental ballistic missile and nuclear bomb testing this year for the first time since 2017.
The news: Commercial satellite footage reveals construction at North Korea’s nuclear testing site for the first time since it was halted in 2018, according to US-based analysts.
- International specialists have also observed that North Korea’s primary nuclear reactor site at Yongbyon appeared to be operating normally, potentially producing more nuclear fuel.
- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un remained highly dedicated to developing his nuclear weapons arsenal and ballistic missile research and development, according to the DNI assessment, which was issued ahead of a congressional hearing on Tuesday.
- It said that North Korea’s continuous development of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs), and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) demonstrated the country’s desire to improve its nuclear delivery capabilities.
- According to the DNI report, the assessment was based on information available as of Jan. 21.
What’s going on: Even as he deals with the situation produced by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a return to ICBM or nuclear testing by North Korea would be a major burden for US President Joe Biden’s administration.
- In the midst of stalled denuclearization discussions, North Korea has hinted that it may resume nuclear or ICBM tests.
- In January, it conducted a record number of missile tests, including the largest since 2017, and it looks to be ready to launch a spy satellite.
- The United States and ten other countries expressed disappointment on Monday with the UN Security Council’s failure to condemn North Korea’s missile launches this year, claiming that the omission harmed the council’s reputation as well as the global non-proliferation framework.