North Korea's nuclear missiles continue to a pose an "extraordinary threat" to the United States despite efforts to build peace with the recalcitrant regime, the Pentagon said in a new report Thursday.
U.S. President Donald Trump unveiled the 2019 Missile Defense Review at the Pentagon as a top North Korean official was only hours away from arriving in Washington to discuss details of a potential second summit between Trump and the North's leader, Kim Jong-un.
Trump did not mention the North Korean threat in his remarks. But he did take credit for starting "negotiations with North Korea" that he said should have been handled by previous administrations.
"While a possible new avenue to peace now exists with North Korea, it continues to pose an extraordinary threat and the United States must remain vigilant," the report says, recalling the regime's earlier threats to strike the U.S. and its allies with nuclear-armed missiles.
The 80-page document -- the first of its kind in nine years -- outlines U.S. capacity to address the missile threats of North Korea, Russia, China and Iran, in particular.
"Over the past decade, (North Korea) has invested considerable resources in its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, and undertaken extensive nuclear and missile testing in order to realize the capability to threaten the U.S. homeland with missile attack," the report continues. "As a result, North Korea has neared the time when it could credibly do so."
North Korea has suspended all nuclear and ballistic missile tests since November 2017, when it launched its third intercontinental ballistic missile thought to be capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.
Throughout 2018, Kim held a series of summits with world leaders, including Trump, and committed to work toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
But even as recently as Wednesday, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said the North has yet to take "concrete steps" to achieve that goal.
"As a result of these test programs, North Korea now has the capability to threaten the U.S. homeland with a nuclear-armed missile attack. The United States will remain vigilant, while also seeking to address this potential threat diplomatically," the report says.
It adds that the U.S. is committed to diplomatic efforts that advance security, including the "U.S. diplomatic initiative with North Korea."
Meanwhile, U.S. missile defenses enable the country's leaders to engage North Korea diplomatically with confidence that the missile defense capabilities will deter aggression and protect the U.S. and its allies in the event of conflict, the report says.
Kim's close aide, Kim Yong-chol, is reportedly carrying a new letter from the leader to the U.S. president.
He is expected to hold talks with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday and possibly meet Trump to finalize details of the second summit.
There is no word from the Trump administration on any visit or meetings involving the North Korean official.
"The intentions of potential adversaries can change directions unexpectedly and more rapidly than we can develop and field defensive capabilities," adds the report.
Kim Jung-mi firstname.lastname@example.org
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