The head of US Northern Command, General Glen VanHerck, has claimed that North Korea may soon test an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with improved performance characteristics.
"[…]The North Korean regime has also indicated that it is no longer bound by the unilateral nuclear and ICBM testing moratorium announced in 2018, suggesting that [North Korean leader] Kim Jong-un may begin flight testing an improved ICBM design in the near future", VanHerck told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.
The general was apparently referring to Pyongyang pledging a unilateral freeze on its ICBM and nuclear weapons tests three years ago.
He then argued at a Pentagon briefing that North Korea had showcased a new ICBM during a military parade in October 2020, which VanHerck suggested possibly means that Pyongyang currently has three ICBMs that could threaten the US.
"In the public parade […] we saw additional capabilities, an additional missile. Now they're up to three missiles that we assess could strike our homeland", the general asserted.
He added that he thinks the US has "a good posture for deterrence", referring to a combination of ground-based interceptors, ballistic missiles, and nuclear weapons the country possesses.
As the finale of its parade, North Korea shows what is apparently a new missile on an 11-axle TEL. pic.twitter.com/4fskoJubBV— Martyn Williams (@martyn_williams) October 10, 2020
On 10 October 2010, Korean Central Television broadcast footage of what looked like a new, never-before-seen ICBM that was displayed at the parade dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the founding of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party.
In a speech at the event, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un emphasised that his country was building up its military capabilities as a deterrent, and that Pyongyang would only strike in "retribution" to an enemy provocation.
North Korea Reportedly Yet to Respond to Biden Administration's Proposal on Talks
As far as General VanHerck claims are concerned, these come a few days after Reuters cited an unnamed source as saying that the Biden administration sought to initiate talks with North Korea last month but had not received "any response from Pyongyang".
The source also noted that there has been no active dialogue between the two countries for over a year, "despite multiple attempts during that time by the United States to engage".
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, for his part, made it clear earlier this year that Washington intends to "review" the nation's approach to North Korea, as international sanctions have failed to convince Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons.
Kim Jong-un, in turn, declared in January that the US was his country's "biggest enemy", noting, however, that he does not rule out diplomacy in relations between the two nations.
Despite the personal rapport established between the two men, the talks did not lead to a halt in North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes as Washington refused to lift anti-North Korean sanctions, reduce its military presence in South Korea, or halt exercises with Seoul unless Pyongyang gets rid of its nukes.