That acceleration is one of the most dramatic signs of leader Kim Jong Un’s push to overhaul the country’s weapons program since hetook power in late 2011. He has modernized production of nuclear and missile parts, upgraded the program within the military hierarchy and overtly pampered engineers, forcing Western leaders to worry more about Pyongyang’s intentions than ever before.
On Sunday,North Korea launched its 10th missile so far this year. The weapon hasn’t been identified, but Japan’s defense minister said it might be a new type of ballistic missile. Initial projections from several experts suggested it would be able to reach U.S. military forces in Guam.
Even apparent failed missile launches, like one thatblew up within minuteson April 28, are now seen by independent experts as signs of North Korea’s progress. Learning from those failures would move the regime closer to its ultimate goal of mastering a long-range missile that could threaten the U.S. with nuclear attack.
For decades, Mr. Kim’s father and grandfather used the country’s missile program to gain leverage in diplomatic talks and revenue from weapon exports. Technological advances came slowly. That changed whenKim Jong Il diedand was succeeded by his youngest son, believed to be 33 years old.
The dictator has shown no interest in negotiating with the U.S. about the missile program, and North Korea’s nuclear ambition and skill are advancing much more quickly. READ MORE