Kim Jong Un, leader of nuclear-capable North Korea, has indicated his country is close to testing a long-range, intercontinental ballistic missile or ICBM.
Kim made the announcement in a New Year's Day speech, saying the tests are in the final stages and a launch is imminent. Reuters reports:
North Korea tested ballistic missiles at an unprecedented rate during 2016, although some experts have said it is years away from developing an ICBM fitted with a nuclear warhead capable of reaching the United States...
...A successful ICBM test launch would mark a significant step forward for secretive Pyongyang's weapons capability. ICBMs have a minimum range of about 5,500 km (3,418 miles), but some are designed to travel 10,000 km or further. The U.S. state of California is roughly 9,000 km from North Korea.
North Korea has been under international sanctions since 2006 due to its missile tests, with those sanctions becoming even stricter in Sept. 2016 following their largest nuclear test to date.
President-elect Donald Trump and his incoming National Security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, have both expressed an interest in the North Korean tests, with Trump requesting a special classified intelligence briefing to discuss the country's nuclear program.
Reuters quotes An Chan-il, a former North Korean military officer who defected to South Korea and runs a think tank in Seoul, as saying that Trump's language concerning Pyongyang's nuclear tests will play a role in Kim's decision making.
"If Trump comes in and the North does not get a good signal in terms of how the relationship between the two countries is going to go, that’ll give them another reason to do it," An said.
North Korea launched a satellite into space last February, which was widely considered to be a test of the isolated nation's long-range ballistic missile technology, Reuters notes.