As tension continues to ramp up between the United States and North Korea, that country is “working to develop capabilities that can degrade or even defeat U.S. missile defense systems deployed in its region.” That’s according to a new report issued by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), as cited in an article by Yonhap News Agency.
The report, an updated version of one that has been released previously, is titled “North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons and Missile Programs,” and looks at North Korea’s nuclear and missile ambitions.
“North Korea continues to advance its nuclear weapons and missile programs despite UN Security Council sanctions and high-level diplomatic efforts. North Korea is observing a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile testing,” the report states.
“Recent ballistic missile tests and an October 2020 military parade suggest that North Korea is continuing to build a nuclear warfighting capability designed to evade regional ballistic missile defenses. Such an approach likely reinforces a deterrence and coercive diplomacy strategy— lending more credibility as it demonstrates capability—but it also raises questions about crisis stability and escalation control. Congress may choose to examine U.S. policy in light of these advances.”
The U.S. Intelligence Committee’s recent Annual Threat Assessment had found that the North Korean regime may soon be ready to resume long-range missile or nuclear testing this year. The North Korean regime “may take a number of aggressive and potentially destabilizing actions to reshape the regional security environment and drive wedges between the United States and its allies.”
The Congressional Research Service report looks at several actions by the North Koreans, including past nuclear testing, use of delivery vehicles, and missile development.
It also looks at events that have taken place since the last version of the report, especially the missile launches in March, which followed a visit to the region by the U.S. new secretaries of state and defense. The North Korean government has been known to test new administrations in both America and South Korea.
“These launches violate United Nations Security Council resolutions. North Korean SRBMs and medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBM), precision-guided multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS), and artillery pose the most acute near-term threats to other nations,” the CRS report says. “Advances in these systems demonstrate the North Korean shift toward solid propellants and satellite guidance systems; advances that could carry over to larger, more potent systems like the Hwasong series ICBMs. These developments provide the projectiles greater mobility and survivability prior to launch and greater potency and precision on target.”
Mary Beth D. Nikitin, Specialist in Nonproliferation, is the author of the report.