North Korea says it's 'not far away' from ICBM test-firing

A ballistic missile being test-fired at an undisclosed location inside North Korea, in a picture released by the official KCNA on May 30, 2017.
A ballistic missile being test-fired at an undisclosed location inside North Korea, in a picture released by the official KCNA on May 30, 2017.PHOTO: AFP/KCNA

SEOUL (Bloomberg) - North Korea says it has moved closer to test-firing an intercontinental ballistic missile with the potential of hitting the US mainland.

"US President Donald Trump has said the world will never see North Korea reach the final stage of developing nuclear weapons that could reach the US, but recent strategic weapon tests have proved the country is 'not far away' from testing an ICBM," the state-run Korean Central News Agency said, citing a commentary in the Rodong Sinmun newspaper.

The end of the US' anti-North Korea policies are now a "near reality," the commentary said.

The isolated state has accelerated its missile-testing program in defiance of United Nations sanctions, as leader Kim Jong Un seeks to develop a device that can deliver a nuclear warhead to North America. 

The regime already possesses the Taepodong-2, which can reach all parts of the US, but analysts say it has been used for launching satellites into orbit and probably wouldn't be suitable for delivering atomic weapons.

A test-firing looks feasible within the next few months, while completion of the technology may take about a year, according to Park Jiyoung, a senior fellow and nuclear engineer at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul.

"The North has already conducted a number of experiments to test various elements of the missile," she said.

"It would now want to test all the elements put together."

Park added that North Korea already has the technology needed to load a nuclear weapon on to a missile, and it is now waiting for the completion of its ICBM and submarine-launched ballistic missile technologies.

The US last week tested a defense system that it said successfully intercepted and destroyed a mock intercontinental ballistic missile. The trial was the first intended to replicate the flight profile of an ICBM that could be deployed by North Korea.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday urged China to do more to rein in North Korea. KCNA called those remarks "impetuous" and said the country would accelerate the development and diversification of its nuclear force.

In its latest act of provocation, North Korea on Thursday launched a series of short-range missiles that flew about 200km. The projectiles appeared to be designed to attack ships.

The same day, Japan's ruling party urged Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to consider building missile shelters and carry out more evacuation drills in response to the threat.