Photo Credit: KCNA
Tactical short-range ballistic missile test-fired towards Sea of Japan by North Korea, August 10, 2019

The United States is “on the lookout” for Pyongyang to resume missile tests, in response to ongoing military drills held by the US and South Korea, PoliticoPro reports.

US Northern Command chief Air Force Gen. Glen VanHerck told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that North Korea recently unveiled “a new ICBM considerably larger and presumably more capable than the systems they tested in 2017, further increasing the threat posed to our homeland.

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“The North Korean regime has also 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,” he added, according to Politico.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are both in Seoul to meet this week with their South Korean counterparts.

Speaking at a joint news briefing Wednesday prior to their meeting with Republic of Korea (ROK) Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong, Blinken said the US is committed to deepening its cooperation with Seoul “across the board, whether it’s stopping COVID-19 and preventing future pandemics, investing in clean energy transformation, shoring up our cyber capability, readiness and resilience.

“Another shared challenge,” Blinken noted pointedly, “is North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program, which are a threat to the region and to the world. We’ll continue to work together with the ROK and other allies and partners, including Japan, toward denuclearization of the DPRK,” the Secretary said. The American and ROK teams are set to meet again Thursday.

North Korea’s Nukes Threaten US and World
North Korea has rebuffed multiple attempts by the Biden administration to make contact, according to CNN; Iran has likewise rejected an offer of talks with the US brokered by the European Union. The new administration now faces a major challenge with both.

In 2002, US President George W. Bush referred to North Korea and Iran – along with Iraq – as an “axis of evil,” saying in his State of the Union address that these regimes posed a “grave and growing danger” by seeking weapons of mass destruction.

Just one year later, North Korea withdrew from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT), declaring its “total freedom from the binding force of the safeguards accord with the International Atomic Energy Agency” and by April, Pyongyang had admitted to having nuclear weapons.

Over the next decade, world leaders begged and negotiated and pleaded with North Korea to end its nuclear weapons program, but with no success. Pyongyang continued its nuclear testing and long-range rocket launches, periodically threatening and denouncing the United States as “the sworn enemy of the Korean people.”

During 2016, North Korea’s military claimed to have tested a hydrogen bomb, and announced it now had miniature nuclear warheads that fit on ballistic missiles – one of which was tested later that year. The blast reportedly had the explosive power of 10 kilotons, according to South Korea’s Meteorological Administration.

By 2017, North Korea announced its first successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), saying it could reach “anywhere in the world.” The United Nations unanimously adopted new sanctions in response, prompting threats from Pyongyang to attack the US territory of Guam. Within a month, North Korea carried out its sixth test of a nuclear weapon – a hydrogen bomb mountable on an ICBM, described by a monitoring group as being up to eight times stronger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 — one that caused a 6.3-magnitude seismic event.

In 2018, US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un met for talks, with Kim promising no more nuclear activity while holding discussions with Trump. By the end of the year, Kim had expanded a key long-range missile base.

By mid-to-late 2019, North Korea was back to test-firing rockets and ballistic missiles, and in 2020 the country’s military conducted similar tests, all of which is seen as an increasing threat to the continental United States as well as to its territories, and to some of its allies.

North Korea’s continuing research into nuclear weapons is also an issue for the State of Israel because Pyongyang shares its knowledge and nuclear bounty with Iran.

With Iran, North Korean Nukes & Arms Threaten US Ally Israel
In a July 28 2015 joint hearing before the Congressional subcommittee on terrorism, nonproliferation and trade subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, and the subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, US Rep. (R-TX) Chairman Ted Poe noted, “The long history of secret cooperation between Iran and North Korea in violation of international law stretches back for decades.

“North Korea first sold Iran ballistic missiles during the 1980s during Iran’s war with Iraq. By the end of the 1980s, North Korea and China were supplying Iran with about 70 percent of its arms.

“North Korean long-range ballistic missiles became the basis for the Iranian Shahab missile series, which currently threatens Israel, our other Middle East allies, and
even Central Europe. In fact, the intelligence community has said that missile cooperation between Iran and North Korea has provided Iran with an increase in its military capabilities.

“By the beginning of the 2000s, the Iranians were giving North Korea sensitive data from their own missile tests to improve the North Korean missile systems. In fact, Iranian officials have been present at nearly every major North Korean missile test.

“This history of very close cooperation on ballistic missiles only has the potential to grow and deepen as a result of the Iranian nuclear deal. In 8 years, Iran will be able to freely work on its ballistic missile system. Iran was able to achieve so much in secret, thanks to its North Korean allies.

“We can only imagine what it will be able to do after the ban on the ballistic missile program is lifted.

“There is a growing evidence that Iran and North Korea have not only been cooperating on missile programs but also in the nuclear field. . . Iranian defectors have also revealed a long history of North Korean experts working on the Iranian nuclear program.”

To view the entire testimony, click here.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.