North Korea has yet to master missile re-entry technology and will take at least one or two more years to do so, according to South Korea’s vice defense minister Suh Choo-suk, speaking Sunday on a show airing on the Korea Broadcasting System.
North Korea has been testing missiles at an unprecedented rate since last year. Last week, it was reported that its military was working on a plan to land missiles near the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam. It’s also been reported that the country is close to perfecting its ability to miniaturize a nuclear warhead.
Concerns that North Korea is close to achieving its goal of putting the mainland United States within range of a nuclear weapon has put the world on notice, with President Donald J. Trump warning that the U.S. military is “locked and loaded” if North Korea makes a move. But top U.S. military officials say there is no imminent risk of a nuclear war.
“Both the United States and South Korea do not believe North Korea has yet completely gained re-entry technology in material engineering terms,” said Suh, adding, “We don’t feel they’ve reached that point yet, but it’s true they are approaching it. We can’t pinpoint the exact timing, but it will take at least one to two more years.”
Suh said North Korea was likely to continue provocations, including nuclear tests, but he did not see a big risk of the North engaging in actual military conflict.
U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo agreed that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will probably not stop provoking the west. “I am quite confident that he will continue to try to develop his missile program, so it wouldn’t surprise me if there was another missile test,” Pompeo told “Fox News Sunday,” adding, “I’ve heard folks talking about … that we’re on the cusp of a nuclear war. I’ve seen no intelligence that would indicate that we’re in that place today.”
On Sunday, it was reported by the Daily Mail that hundreds of North Korean students are signing up to join the country’s military based on photographs capturing lines of enlistment.
Also on Sunday, speaking from Osan Air Base, South Korea, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joe Dunford stated that finding a diplomatic solution to the North Korea missile crisis is the focus, but the military is also preparing other options in case they become necessary.
“As a military leader, I have to make sure that the president does have viable military options in the event that the diplomatic and economic pressurization campaign fails,” said Dunford. “Even as we develop those options, we are mindful of the consequences of executing those options, and that makes us have more of a sense of urgency to make sure that we’re doing everything we absolutely can to support Secretary Tillerson’s current path.”
Gen. Dunford began a scheduled swing through the region Sunday, stopping in South Korea to meet with President Moon Jae-in, along with newly-appointed defense officials and commanders. Gen. Dunford will also visit Beijing and Tokyo this week, according to defense officials.
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