News and Commentary

South Korea: North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons Program Proceeding ‘Faster Than Expected’

On Tuesday, a South Korean official said North Korea’s nuclear weapon program is moving faster than had been anticipated. As reported by Yonhap News, Cho Myoung-gyon, the unification minister for South Korea, said, “North Korea has been developing its nuclear weapons at a faster-than-expected pace. … We cannot rule out the possibility that North Korea could announce its completion of a clear force within one year.”

Cho continued, “It is a fact that we have witnessed some noteworthy movements in North Korea. But it remains to be seen whether Pyongyang would make further provocations.”

Cho listed four reasons why North Korea has avoided further provocations: The first two involved the seasons and technology flaws, as he stated, “As a seasonal factor, the North’s provocations noticeably fell in the winter time. Also from the technology perspective, the North may need the time to advance its (nuclear and missile) programs as it seeks to complete its nuclear force.”

Cho’s third reason: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may be prioritizing the economy at the moment. The fourth reason: Seoul and Washington have been conducting joint military drills.

Cho offered a glimmer of hope: “If North Korea stops its provocations for a certain period of time, I think it could set the tone (for relevant parties) to enter dialogue with North Korea.”

In September, North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test; it has fired two intercontinental ballistic missiles in 2017. But no provocations have followed the launching of an intermediate-range missile over Japan on September 15.

On Monday, Japan’s Kyodo News reported that radio signals indicated North Korea might be preparing a ballistic missile launch.

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