North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is reportedly continuing his nuclear and long-range missile plans to achieve "strategic dominance over South Korean and U.S. forces in the region," according to a new U.S. intelligence report. The 2023 Annual Threat Assessment released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence stated that Pyongyang is "prioritizing efforts to build an increasingly capable missile force designed to evade U.S. and regional missile defenses," and that the regime "probably is preparing to test a nuclear device to further its stated military modernization goals." Intelligence officials highlighted Russia and China as the top threats to the United States in the report.
Pyongyang has moved closer to Beijing and Moscow to secure its position in an international environment that is conducive to Kim's brutal authoritarian system. The tension on the Korean Peninsula has grown since nuclear negotiations between North Korea and the United States ended without an agreement at a February 2019 summit. Last year, Pyongyang launched around 70 ballistic missiles and continued several weapons tests in the first months of 2023. In the past six months, North Korea has timed its launches to coincide with joint U.S.-South Korea military drills. The report noted that Pyongyang probably wants the alliance to decrease the pace and scale of the exercises with the ultimate goal of undermining the strength of the alliance.
The United States and South Korea are set to commence their massive Freedom Shield joint military exercise next week, consisting of live field drills and computer-simulation command post training on a scale not seen in five years. North Korea warned last month of "unprecedentedly persistent and strong counteractions" to the upcoming exercise. While Pyongyang remains under heavy U.N. Security Council sanctions, it has helped fund its nuclear and missile programs through cybercrimes such as cryptocurrency theft and ransomware attacks on businesses and hospitals. The annual intelligence report assessed that the North will increasingly turn to illicit activities such as cyber theft to develop its weapons program, which remains a critical priority for the Kim regime.
The ODNI report also highlighted that Kim views nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles as the ultimate guarantor of his autocratic rule and has no intention of abandoning those programs, believing that over time he will gain international acceptance as a nuclear power. Kim has no intention of abandoning his nuclear and conventional capabilities targeting the United States and its allies, which will enable periodic aggressive actions to try to reshape the regional security environment in his favor. The report assessed that Kim has developed closer ties with Beijing and Moscow in an effort to secure North Korea's position and that he is continuing efforts to enhance North Korea's nuclear and conventional capabilities targeting the United States and its allies.
The report stated that North Korea's strategic goals include building a military capable of deterring or defeating regional and external aggression, unifying the Korean Peninsula on its terms, and driving the United States and its allies from the region. The report also stated that Kim remains focused on his domestic policy agenda of increasing economic self-sufficiency, improving living standards, and strengthening internal security measures to ensure regime survival. Overall, the report warned that North Korea's nuclear and missile programs continue to pose a grave threat to the United States and its allies in the region.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sees nuclear weapons and missiles as the key to his regime's survival and is looking to gain regional dominance, a new U.S. intelligence assessment said. File Photo by KCNA/UPI | License Photo