World

N. Korea 'not far away' from test-firing ICBM

SEOUL North Korea claimed it has moved closer to test-firing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with the potential of hitting the United States 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 programme in defiance of United Nations sanctions, as leader Kim Jong Un seeks to develop a device that can deliver a nuclear warhead to America.

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

FEASIBLE

A test-firing looks feasible within the next few months, while completion of the technology may take about a year, according to Dr 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."

The US last week tested a defence system that can intercept and destroy intercontinental ballistic missiles.

South Korea announced that new President Moon Jae In has nominated former navy chief Song Young Moo as defence minister.

The incoming minister is well suited to deal with North Korea's nuclear and missile threat, the presidential Blue House office said.

- THE STRAITS TIMES ONLINE

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