- North Korea's nuclear weapons program looks "unstoppable," according to a leading expert
- Victor Cha added North Korea is progressing "faster" on their programs than US missile defense modernization.
- The top US diplomat said this week that North Korea is preparing to conduct its seventh nuclear test
North Korea's nuclear missile program looks "unstoppable," and its progress is "faster" than US missile defense program developments, according to a leading North Korea expert.
Speaking virtually at a conference in Seoul on Wednesday, Victor Cha, the former director of Asian affairs on the National Security Council and Korea chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said North Korea is swiftly advancing its strategic weapons capabilities, and it looks like they're "unstoppable," South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported.
"The United States is expanding and modernizing their missiles and augmenting and supplementing their missile defense system," Cha said. "But I would argue that North Korea's progress on their programs is moving faster than our modernization of our missile defense systems."
US missile defense systems are capable of defending against traditional ballistic missile threats in limited quantities, but more complex systems, such as missiles equipped with countermeasures or hypersonic missiles, may pose a greater challenge.
Cha, who led negotiations with North Korea during the George W. Bush administration, said that Pyongyang's refusal to respond to attempts at dialogue with the US makes the current situation "not a good one" but noted that he believes military actions are not the answer.
North Korea, which places a great deal of emphasis on its military, has conducted 31 missile tests, including one it claims was its first successful ICBM launch since 2017. In response, the US and South Korea have carried out joint-missile launches and will participate in expanded joint military training involving field exercises this summer.
The prospect of expanded drills has agitated Pyongyang, which has tends to bristle at US-South Korean military cooperation. Last week, a North Korean official warned that the US and South Korea would face "unprecedented" security challenges and "undesirable" consequences if they do not stop their "military confrontation."
For the US and its allies, though, North Korea is the one provoking tensions. As the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference was beginning this week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that "Pyongyang is preparing to conduct its seventh nuclear test," adding that the NPT agreement is "under increasing strain" due to nuclear provocations from North Korea, as well as Russia and Iran.