A top US military commander has said that North Korea is forecast to perfect its intercontinental ballistic missile by the end of next year, the chief of South Korea's parliamentary defense committee said Thursday.
Kim Young-woo of the minor opposition Bareun Party told media that US Pacific Command chief Adm. Harry Harris made the remarks during their recent meeting in Seoul.
Earlier, the Washington Post said that the US' Defense Intelligence Agency had concluded that the communist regime would be able to produce a reliable, nuclear-capable ICBM sometime next year.
"Under (North Korean leader) Kim Jong-un's scenario, the North will be able to field an operational nuclear-capable missile within a year," Kim, who chairs the National Assembly's defense committee, said during an YTN radio interview. "Now, (we) face the greatest crisis."
This photo, taken on Aug. 2, 2017, shows Rep. Kim Young-woo of the minor opposition Bareun Party speaking during a party meeting at the party headquarters in Seoul. (Yonhap)
In July, the North conducted two ICBM tests, indicating that it is on course to develop the nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the US mainland.
On Tuesday, the North launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan with its range apparently halved.
The provocation was a reminder of grave security threats not only to South Korea but also to Japan and Guam, where key US military bases are located.
Gen. Terrence J. O' Shaughnessy, commander of US Pacific Air Forces, reaffirmed his troops' commitment to the defense of the allies.
"I could not be more confident in our ability and our preparedness to defend ourselves and our allies against the growing threat of North Korea," O' Shaughnessy said during an unscheduled visit to Japan on Wednesday, according to his command.
"Now more than ever, we stand shoulder to shoulder with our Japanese allies," he added. "The threats we face from North Korea are significant but so is our capability and resolve to tackle them together."
He's in charge of the operation of some high-profile American strategic assets including long-range bombers based in Guam that can be immediately mobilized in case of an emergency in Korea. (Yonhap)