North Korea to close nuclear test site

Lofty rhetoric and big promises by Kim Jong Un meet with scepticism in Seoul

North Korea says UN sanctions are stopping it from paying UN fees
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
(Image credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images)

5 April

North Korea will soon have missiles capable of reaching the UK, say MPs

North Korea will “almost certainly” have the capability to reach UK shores with an intercontinental ballistic missile within six to 18 months, MPs have warned.

The new report from the Commons Defence Select Committee says that the missiles could potentially carry nuclear warheads - and notes that the UK has only a limited ballistic missile defence capability.

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However, the committee adds that a strike on the UK seems “highly unlikely”. The Ministry of Defence “does not consider that the UK will be a target of North Korean nuclear missiles, as its regime does not believe the UK to be a threat”, the report notes, adding that North Korean military planning is mainly focused on the US and South Korea.

The MPs describe North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as “ruthless, like other communist dictators before him, but rational”, and insist he could potentially be “dissuaded from the use of nuclear weapons, by means of a policy of deterrence and containment”.

They add: “We believe it is obvious to North Korea that launching such weapons would lead inescapably to devastating military consequences from the US, South Korea and other countries too.”

Pyongyang has carried out a number of nuclear tests throughout 2016 and 2017, escalating tensions with South Korea and the US.

However, Kim appears has struck a more conciliatory tone in recent months, taking part in denuclearisation talks with leaders from both South Korea and China, and organising a meeting with US President Donald Trump in May.

Despite these developments, the MPs’ report says that Kim's regime is “unlikely to abandon its weapon programme”.

The isolated nation is believed to have launched a successful cyberattack on the UK already, with the WannaCry ransomware last year.

“We agree with the Government that the UK was probably not intended to be the principal target,” says the report. “Nevertheless, the WannaCry attack highlighted basic vulnerabilities in UK information technology systems.

“With North Korea unconcerned by who gets hurt when it lashes out, the UK will continue to be at risk from North Korean cyberattacks.”

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