Seoul (CNN) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un says his country is close to testing an intercontinental ballistic missile.
“Research and development of the cutting-edge tech weapons are actively progressing and strengthening our defense capabilities, including last stage preparation of tests for intercontinental ballistic rocket launch have been continuously succeeding,” Kim said in a televised address on New Year’s Day.
The speech was full of the North’s usual self-congratulatory, lofty proclamations and anti-Western rhetoric.
Kim referred to North Korea as a “nuclear and military power in the east that formidable enemy dare encroach on” and said “unless the US and its vassal forces stop nuclear threat and blackmail and unless they stop the war exercises which they stage right at our noses under the pretext of annual exercises, the DPRK would keep increasing the military capabilities for self-defense and preemptive striking capacity with a main emphasis on nuclear force,” according to state news agency KCNA.
Despite Pyongyang’s apparent progress on a warhead, it doesn’t have good enough missile and rocket technology to deliver a nuke — at least not yet, says Bruce Bennett, a senior defense analyst at the Rand Corporation think tank.
But Kim is determined to develop nuclear weapons by the end of 2017 “at all costs,” according to a high-profile North Korean who defected.