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North Korea expected to continue modernising and diversifying its missile force, says DIA chief

Despite international sanctions, North Korea will continue to modernise and increase the survivability, lethality, and diversification of its missile force, US Army Lieutenant General Scott Berrier, the director of the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), said on 29 April.

In a written statement to the US Senate Committee on Armed Services, the DIA chief assessed that Pyongyang will continue its “nuclear, missile, and military modernisation efforts” this year, shifting to solid-propellant missile systems that can be prepared for launch more rapidly than its existing liquid-propellant systems.

In this regard, the lieutenant general said that North Korea’s advances in missile technology, particularly in short- and medium-range systems “increasingly designed to evade missile defences”, have already increased the threat posed to Japan and US forces deployed there, with Tokyo responding with plans to bolster its sea-based missile defences and an ongoing consideration of acquiring stand-off capabilities.

With regard to future North Korean missile tests, the DIA chief said, “We expect the Kim [Jong-un] regime will initially avoid provoking the United States or undermining potential diplomatic engagement as it gauges the new US administration’s policy approach to North Korea.

“Pyongyang probably would then seek to justify actions it is planning by using US pressure or joint US military exercises with South Korea as a pretext for testing an ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile), SRBM (short-range ballistic missile), LACM (land-attack cruise missile) or SLBM (submarine-launched ballistic missile), demonstrating a massed SRBM, long-range artillery, or multiple rocket launcher volley; conducting a cyber attack; or possibly detonating another nuclear device in order to demonstrate North Korean strength and resolve,” he said.

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