North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “probably” will test a nuclear device again in his drive to build a nuclear arsenal that he sees as “the ultimate guarantor” of his rule, a US intelligence report said Wednesday.
Kim also is likely to continue firing nuclear-capable missiles in an effort “to normalize Pyongyang’s missile testing,” the 2023 Annual Threat Assessment report said.
North Korea has conducted six nuclear tests since 2006, with each blast increasing in intensity. Its last nuclear test was in 2017.
“North Korea probably is preparing to test a nuclear device to further its stated military modernization goals,” said the report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
“Kim almost certainly views nuclear weapons and ICBMs 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,” the report said.
North Korea funds its nuclear programs partly from the proceeds of criminal activity, including cryptocurrency theft, it said.
“In one heist in 2022, Pyongyang stole a record $625 million from a Singapore-based blockchain technology firm,” it said.
In recent years, it has test-fired intercontinental and ballistic missiles at an increasingly brisk pace, firing more than 60 of them last year alone.
In the past six months, North Korea “timed its missile launches” to coincide with joint US-South Korea military exercises.
“Pyongyang probably wants the alliance to decrease the pace and scale of the exercises with the ultimate goal of undermining the strength” of US-South Korea defense ties, the report said.