North Korea could develop a nuclear missile to hit the US as early as next year, Pentagon finds

North Korea could develop a nuclear missile to hit the US as early as next year, Pentagon findsUS officials announced on Tuesday that they believe North Korea will be able to field a reliable, nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile as early as next year, in an assessment which significantly increases concern about the rogue regime in Pyongyang. The new assessment by the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) reduces by two years the previous forecast of North Korea’s capability. The timeline was reduced as a result of Kim Jong-un’s recent flurry of missile tests, which showed surprising technical advances by the country’s weapons scientists. It came as North Korea fired its 14th missile this year.  Intercontinental ballistic missile test launch map Scott Bray, national intelligence manager for East Asia at the Office for the Directorate of National Intelligence (ODNI), said in a statement that the recent test of an intercontinental range ballistic missile “was not a surprise to the intelligence community” but he described it as a “milestone”. “This test, and its impact on our assessments, highlight the threat that North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs pose to the United States, to our allies in the region, and to the whole world,” he said. “The intelligence community is closely monitoring the expanding threat from North Korea.” President Donald Trump, during his visit to Poland earlier this month, vowed to confront Pyongyang “very strongly” to stop its missile advances. But it remains unclear how he can act, without causing civilian casualties on a large scale. Mr Trump has sought help from China, but grown frustrated – tweeting on June 20 that Beijing’s efforts “have not worked out”. On Tuesday Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the UN, sounded a more optimistic note, however, and said talks were progressing. "We're constantly in touch with China. Things are moving but it's still too early to tell how far they'll move," she said, speaking after a UN meeting in New York. North Koreas missile test range The Washington Post reported that one of the few remaining technical hurdles is the challenge of atmospheric “reentry” — the ability to design a missile that can pass through the upper atmosphere without damage to the warhead.  Officials told the paper that they could achieve that feat as early as this week, with Thursday marking a North Korean holiday to celebrate the end of the Korean War. “They’re setting up for something,” a defence official told AFP. North Korea startled the world earlier this month with its successful July 4 test of a missile capable of striking parts of Alaska — the first such missile with proven intercontinental range. “There has been alarming progress,” said Joseph DeTrani, the former mission manager for North Korea for the ODNI and a former special envoy for negotiations with Pyongyang.  “In the last year they have gained capabilities that they didn’t have, including ones that we thought they would not have been able to obtain for years.”



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