North Korea May Be Planning to Test New Nuclear-capable Missiles That 'Threaten Our Homeland,' U.S. General Warns

The chief of the U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command has warned that North Korea may be planning fresh nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile launches, citing recent engine tests in the secretive dictatorship.

General Terrence O'Shaughnessy, who also serves as the commander of the U.S. Northern Command, submitted a statement for a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Thursday warning that 2020 might see Kim Jong Un resume the ICBM tests that have been frozen since December 2017.

At the end of last year, Kim promised to unveil a "new strategic weapon" in the "near future."

O'Shaughnessy said Thursday that although the dictator "did not specify what this new weapon would be, recent engine testing suggests North Korea may be prepared to flight-test an even more capable ICBM design," Yonhap news agency reported.

The commander added that such a weapon "could enhance Kim's ability to threaten our homeland during a crisis or conflict."

O'Shaughnessy stressed the importance of American ballistic missile defense in light of any new North Korean ICBM launches. U.S. defenses are "reliable and lethal," he said, and suggested that new short-range capabilities could also eventually be added.

Kim is yet to resume ICBM or nuclear weapon tests despite the failure of U.S.-North Korean negotiations over sanctions relief and denuclearization.

Last year, Kim promised to send a "Christmas gift" to President Donald Trump, which was widely interpreted as a threat to restart major weapons tests.

Kim did not follow through on the vow, but the North is believed to be continuing rocket and nuclear research despite its detente with the U.S.

Kim also ordered regular short-range missile tests over the course of 2019. Trump dismissed the launches as routine, though U.S. allies and senior administration officials warned such actions were a threat to regional peace.

For all Trump's optimism, the U.S. has been unable to make any significant headway on North Korean denuclearization. Departed Trump administration officials including former national security adviser John Bolton and former Chief of Staff John Kelly have publicly said they do not believe Kim will ever willingly surrender his nuclear arsenal.

A United Nations report seen by Reuters earlier this week said that Pyongyang is continuing to violate international sanctions while expanding its nuclear and missile capabilities. The UN said the North has illegally imported refined petroleum and some $370 million of coal with the help of Chinese ships.

Kim Jong Un, North Korea, ICBM, tests
This file photo shows people walking past a television showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at a railway station in Seoul, South Korea on December 30, 2019. JUNG YEON-JE/AFP via Getty Images/Getty