North Korea is working on an advanced version of its existing KN-20 intercontinental ballistic missile that could potentially reach Washington, a US official told CNN.
This newly assessed ICBM is just one part of an accelerated effort by Kim Jong-un’s regime to improve every part of its missile and nuclear weapons attack capability as quickly as possible, the official said late Wednesday. Additional new improvements are underway to North Korea’s nuclear fuel, missile launchers, guidance and targeting systems as well, he added.
This development comes ahead of President Donald Trump’s visit to Asia, where North Korea’s nuclear programme will be a major topic of discussion. North Korea also appears to have made critical progress in developing warheads that will be capable of re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere and reaching a target at intercontinental ranges, CNN reported. At least two recent ballistic missile tests demonstrated a dummy warhead successfully re-entering the atmosphere at least in a limited fashion, by not shattering.
The US continues to believe it may be possible that during 2018, North Korea will be able to take the critical step of putting a miniaturized warhead on top of an intercontinental missile, officials say.
Defense Secretary James Mattis has also been sounding the alarm, noting recently, "North Korea has accelerated the threat that it poses to its neighbors and the world through its illegal and unnecessary missile and nuclear weapons programs," he added, emphasizing that the US "does not accept a nuclear North Korea."
The improvements that North Korea is making that indicate the threat is more urgent include: improved solid rocket fuel with more stability that burns hotter and more evenly to help the missile achieve greater distances; improved rocket motors and engine components, and improved targeting and guidance systems.