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North Korea's military capabilities to pose ‘increasing threat' to US and its Asian allies, says ODNI

The US intelligence community has warned that the threat posed by North Korea to the United States, South Korea, and Japan will increase as Pyongyang continues to improve its conventional military capabilities, according to a report published by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) on 13 April.

In its ‘2021 Annual Threat Assessment’ report, the ODNI stated that the “growing and more diverse strategic and tactical ballistic missile force” Pyongyang paraded in October 2020 and January 2021 is aimed at providing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un with “diverse tools” to advance his political objectives or inflict heavy losses if North Korea were attacked.

Moreover, Kim may take “a number of aggressive and potentially destabilising actions” to reshape the regional security environment and drive wedges between the US and its allies, up to and including the resumption of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) testing.

Despite announcing an end to North Korea’s self-imposed moratorium on nuclear weapon and ICBM testing in December 2019, Kim has thus far not tested long-range missiles and has left the door open to future denuclearisation talks with Washington. However, the ODNI is of the view that Kim may be considering whether to resume long-range missile or nuclear testing this year to “try to force the United States to deal with him on Pyongyang’s terms”.

“We assess that Kim views nuclear weapons as the ultimate deterrent against foreign intervention and believes that over time he will gain international acceptance and respect as a nuclear power,” said the ODNI, adding that North Korea, which is actively engaged in ballistic missile research and development, “will be a WMD [weapons of mass destruction] threat for the foreseeable future”.

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