Should the U.S Worry About North Korea’s Missile Development?

The U.S. Department of Defense could learn from North Korea on its fast missile development, despite the economic hardship caused by U.S. sanctions, an American general said to Sputniknews.

“Somehow over the last few years, North Korea has developed a ballistic missile program that can threaten its neighbors and threaten the United States, and a nuclear program that can threaten its neighbors and the United States, and they’ve done that,” Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman and U.S. Air Force Gen. John Hyten said at an event held by a think tank called the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

The story of North Korea’s nuclear ambition

North Korea thought about the importance of obtaining nuclear arsenals when the Cold War between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union (now Russia) began. At the same time, Kim Il-Sung (the grandfather of North Korea’s current leader Kim Jong-Un) was facing a war with neighboring South Korea.

The Soviet Union assisted its communist ally in developing its nuclear weapon, aimed at protecting itself from the U.S. Also, Pyongyang benefited from alliances with other countries such as China and Pakistan, as Joseph S.Bermudez, Jr stated.

In 1986, North Korea resumed the operation of a five-megawatt nuclear reactor at Yongbyon, finishing a seven-year construction with Soviet assistance.

North Korea threatened to leave the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1993 but postponed its withdrawal. A year later, North Korea and the U.S. signed an agreement that would terminate the operation of the Yongbyon reactor in exchange for the assistance of the development of two reactors for electricity.

Pyongyang officially withdrew from the NPT in 2003 and resumed its first missile and nuclear tests three years later, prompting the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions on the communist state. However, such punishment did not deter Pyongyang as it carried out a second test in 2009.

Concerns over North Korea’s missile development

In September 2019, the U.S. intelligence authority and independent experts believed that North Korea’s new missile was capable of attacking U.S. defense bases in Asia, contradicting U.S. President Donald Trump’s claim that a missile launched by Pyongyang was “standard”.

Japan’s Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya warned that North Korea’s missile could outsmart the existing defense system deployed by Japan with the help of U.S. technology, due to its irregular trajectories, as The Guardian reported.

North Korea will test new weapons again

Experts speculated what types of weapons Pyongyang will test this year due to their rapid development, adding that the country would launch better weapons compared to what it had tested in 2019.

“They might work toward developing better liquid-propellant engines or revisit older engines that they’ve had trouble with in the past,” said Ankit Panda, a senior fellow at the U.S.-based Federation of American Scientists (FAS).

In his New Year’s address, Jong-un stated his regime would ignore U.S. sanctions. The young leader also slammed the U.S. for making impossible demands on Pyongyang and for arming South Korea.

North Korea’s disappointment does not surprise anyone following the stalled talks with Trump. Both Jong-un and the U.S. President have met three times in Singapore (2018), Hanoi, and Panmunjom (in 2019). However, they failed to produce a concrete solution that can make Pyongyang denuclearize.

Pyongyang wants sanctions to be partially lifted as a guarantee, while the U.S. wants North Korea to dismantle all its nuclear facilities before the embargoes are removed.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres raised concern over Jong-un’s speech, hoping that there would be no nuclear tests. However, as long as there is no real solution that satisfies North Korea, the situation will remain unchanged.