North Korea’s Recent Ballistic Missile Progress Causing ‘Great Concern’, US Missile Defense Chief Says

A group of North Korean soldiers looks down on the southern side of the inter-Korean truce village of Panmunjom from the rooftop of the Panmungak Pavilion, 02 June 2017. Photo: Yonhap/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

  • North Korea has achieved substantial technological advances in ballistic missiles over the past six months, according to the head of the US Missile Defense Agency, James Syring.
  • Syring deems those advances to be a cause of ‘great concern’.
  • US is already addressing the North Korean threat that it knows today, he says.
  • Syring adds it is incumbent to assume that North Korea ‘can range the United States with an ICBM carrying a nuclear warhead’.

North Korea’s advances in ballistic missile technology are a cause of “great concern”, head of the US Missile Defense Agency, Vice Admiral James Syring, has declared amid ongoing tensions on the Korean Peninsula, as the regime of Kim Jong-un keeps conducting more and more weapon tests.

Syring testified in a hearing of the US House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday. Just hours later, the North Korean regime conducted a new ballistic missile test.

On Thursday morning, the regime of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un fired multiple anti-ship cruise missiles.

North Korea’s previous ballistic missile firing was at the end of May when the regime of Kim Jong-un has alleged that its had been a successful test of a precision-guided system as it was known to be in pursuit of developing an “aircraft carrier killer”, i.e. an anti-ship ballistic missile.

Counting in Thursday’s test, North Korea has performed its 11th ballistic missile firings since Donald Trump became President of the United States, with eight successful and three failed tests.

Pyongyang recently said that Kim Jong-un had approved the Pukguksong-2 missile, an intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM), for mass production.

The recent North Korean provocations have led South Korea to admit that the missile program of Kim Jong-un’s regime is advancing faster than thought, and that a war might be in the making.

North Korea’s regime has claimed that its new rocket could deliver a “large heavy nuclear warhead” all the way to the US mainland.

Ongoing activity and a large number of people have been spotted at North Korea’s nuclear test site, the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Facility, amid lingering concerns that the regime of leader Kim Jong-un could carry out its sixth nuclear test.

There have been reports that North Korea has been bracing for a preemptive US missile strike similar to the missile strike on the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in response to the April 4 attack with chemical weapons.

In early June, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed new sanctions on North Korea and entities trading with it over its ongoing development of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and continued violations of UN Security Council resolutions.

Meanwhile, South Korea suspended temporarily the further deployment of the advanced US missile defense system known as THAAD over certain bureaucratic irregularities surrounding its installment. THAAT has already become operational in South Korea, and can intercept ballistic missiles launched by the regime of Kim Jong-un in North Korea.

James Syring, Director of the US Missile Defense Agency, is seen here speaking to the press in Seoul, South Korea, 11 August 2016. Photo: Yonhap/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

‘Incumbent’

The technological advances in ballistic missiles achieved by North Korea in the past six months are a cause of great concern, Vice Admiral James Syring, who is in charge of America’s Missile Defense Agency, told the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday.

“The advancements in the last six months have caused great concern to me and others, in the advancement of and demonstration of technology of ballistic missiles from North Korea,“ Syring told the congressional hearing, as cited by Reuters.

“I would not say we are comfortably ahead of the threat; I would say we are addressing the threat that we know today,” the US missile defense chief added.

In his words, North Korea might soon have the capability to target the US mainland with intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) – which is known to have been a long-coveted goal of the Kim Jong-un regime.

“It is incumbent on us to assume that North Korea today can range the United States with an ICBM carrying a nuclear warhead,” Syring said.

North Korea’s most recent nuclear weapon tests – its fourth and fifth – were conducted in 2016.

Its regime has said it is working to develop a nuclear-tipped ICBM capable of reaching the US mainland.

Missile experts are quoted by Reuters as saying that North Korea could soon test its first ICBM but they believe it will take until at least 2020 before it is capable of fielding an operational nuclear-tipped ICBM.

The congressional testimony of US missile defense chief James Syring on North Korea’s missile program comes just as South Korea suspended temporarily the further deployment on its territory of the advanced US missile defense system known as THAAD over certain bureaucratic irregularities surrounding its installation.

THAAD has already become operational in South Korea, and can intercept ballistic missiles launched by the regime of Kim Jong-un in North Korea.

In comments last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin slammed the deployment of US missile defense systems in places such as the Korean Peninsula and even on American soil (Alaska, Hawaii, Guam).

Putin argued that the development of a network of US missile defense was igniting a new arms race.

In the same comments, the Russian President also threatened a response if Sweden decided to join NATO, and questioned the right of the United States and/or journalists to ask questions about the domestic political situation in Russia.

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