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North Korea Missile Program Progressing Faster Than Thought


North Korea launched the Hwasong-14 missile test on July 4, 2017. Photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang, July, 4 2017

North Korea may have a working intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, able to carry a nuclear weapon by next year.

Intelligence officials for the U.S. Defense Department made the estimate in a report published Tuesday.

Some Republican lawmakers have voiced concerns about North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs.

The Washington Post reported that the estimate decreases the expected time in which North Korea would be able to produce a “reliable, nuclear-capable ICBM” program. Earlier estimates had stated that North Korea would need three years to build a working ICBM.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep, Mac Thornberry, has called for increased missile defense spending.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep, Mac Thornberry, has called for increased missile defense spending.

Mac Thornberry is the Republican committee chairman of the House Armed services committee. He said he was concerned about the apparent success of North Korea’s launch of a long-range missile on July 4.

Thornberry wants to increase U.S. defense spending on missile defense by $2.5 billion. Analysts said that the missile launched on July 4 was capable of reaching the state of Alaska. Thornberry said Congress and President Donald Trump need to take action to ensure that the U.S. and its allies are protected.

The U.S. Defense Department has already increased the number of ground based anti-missile weapons based in Alaska. Missile defense systems are also based in the state of California.

VOA spoke to Ken Gause, the director of the International Affairs Group of the Center for Naval Analyses in Virginia. He said North Korea’s increased efforts to develop long distance missiles are aimed at bringing about talks with the United States.

He said North Korea considers its weapons programs as the only way to ensure its security.

Gause says the North Korean government wants to develop its economy, but is unwilling to limit its weapons programs.

“They have moved away, over the last few years, away from a military first policy to a party/people first policy which the driving factor behind that is economic progress, but they cannot focus on that part of their agenda until they have security locked down.”

Observers say the July 4 launch showed progress.

Scott Bray, an East Asia expert with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said the recent test was not a surprise. However, he added that it presented a threat to the U.S. and “to our allies in the region and to the whole world.”

I’m Mario Ritter.

Robert Burns reported this story for AP. Mario Ritter adapted it for VOA Learning English with additional material from VOA’s Victor Beattie. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.

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Words in This Story

ballistic missile –adj. an explosive device able to travel long distances through the air

Reliable –adj. something that can be depended on to do what is intended

Focus –n. placing great or full attention on something

Agenda –n. a plan for things that are to be done

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