WASHINGTON, Sept. 21 (UPI) — A U.S. Air Force general says North Korea will soon be developing an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States.
Gen. John Hyten, who was nominated to lead the U.S. Strategic Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday while it is impossible to give a specific timing to future provocations, North Korea could soon deliver an ICBM equipped with a nuclear warhead, South Korean newspaper Donga Ilbo reported.
Hyten said he is concerned about what North Korea would do after it has mastered the ability to mount an ICBM with a nuclear weapon, adding that if he is appointed to the top position at the U.S. Strategic Command he would make North Korea’s nuclear provocations a priority.
North Korea’s fifth nuclear test has been followed by universal condemnation and joint U.S.-South Korea drills that have sparked verbal attacks from North Korea’s state media and propaganda outlets.
Pyongyang’s responses have not deterred the United States.
The U.S. Air Force on Wednesday flew two B-1B supersonic bombers over South Korean airspace more than a week after it sent two B-1B Lancers to the peninsula on Sept. 13, RT reported.
The Air Force said the deployment was the closest ever to the North Korea border, and was a sign of U.S. commitment to defending South Korea from North Korean aggression.
North Korea may also be planning more nuclear tests after Sept. 9, when a 5.2-magnitude earthquake was registered near Punggye-ri nuclear test site.
Satellite images from Sept. 15 analyzed on 38 North, a Johns Hopkins University website dedicated to North Korea issues, indicate a “low level of post-test activity” at the site, according to analysts Joseph Bermudez and Jack Liu.
“The presence of unused tunnels at the West and South Portals mean North Korea could conduct further nuclear tests at Punggye-ri with little to no notice,” the analysts say.