In declaring a unilateral freeze in missile testing, North Korea appears ready to settle for now with an imperfect nuclear arms capability, one good enough to stoke fear in the United States but which can’t promise to strike U.S. targets reliably, experts say.
North Korea said on Saturday it no longer needed to conduct nuclear or intercontinental ballistic missile tests because it had reached its weapons development goals, even though U.S. officials and experts do not believe the North’s program is complete.
The declaration came ahead of talks between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in on Friday. Kim, whose economy is under pressure from international sanctions, is expected to meet U.S. President Donald Trump in late May or early June.
One big gap in the North’s weapons program, U.S. officials say, is that Pyongyang has not proven it has a reliable re-entry vehicle that can carry a nuclear warhead to a U.S. target on an ICBM without breaking up in the atmosphere.