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Pentagon sees N Korea as ‘critical’ threat
May 3, 2013, 9:14 pm

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has recently made belligerent remarks toward his southern neighbour [Xinhua]

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has recently made belligerent remarks toward his southern neighbour [Xinhua]

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) poses one of the most critical US security challenges in Northeast Asia as it pursues nuclear capabilities and develops long-range ballistic missiles, the Pentagon said Thursday.

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel delivered the first report on the DPRK’s military development to Congress, as required by the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2012.

The DPRK’s continued pursuit of nuclear technology and capabilities, and its development of long-range ballistic missile programs – including the December 2012 Taepodong-2 missile launch and the April 2012 display of a new road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile – demonstrate its threat to regional stability and US national security, the report said.

The DPRK continues to invest in nuclear infrastructure, as it has conducted nuclear tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013 and could conduct more tests at any time, it also said.

Pyongyang’s development of a multi-stage rocket, highlighted by the launch of a satellite into space last December, “contributes heavily” to its efforts to build a long-range ballistic missile capable of hitting the US with a nuclear warhead, the report said, while adding that Pyongyang has yet tested a re-entry vehicle.

“North Korea will move closer to this goal, as well as increase the threat it poses to US forces and allies in the region, if it continues testing and devoting scarce regime resources to these programs,” it warned.

The report, produced by the Pentagon’s Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy and the Defense Intelligence Agency, foresees little change in the DPRK’s strategic aims under its new leader Kim Jong Un, which include using “coercive diplomacy,” developing a nuclear arsenal and undermining of the US-South Korean alliance.

It noted that tensions on the Korean Peninsula have grown as relations between the north and south worsen. Pyongyang has portrayed Seoul and Washington as constant threats to its sovereignty in a probable attempt to legitimize its rule, the report said.

The Pentagon believes that the large, forward-deployed DPRK’s military can inflict “great damage” on South Korea despite serious resource shortfalls and aging hardware, but the strength of the US-South Korean alliance deters the DPRK from conducting attacks on its southern neighbour.