US admits to Kim Jong-un nuke ‘feat’


World, Americas

US says North Korea’s nuclear, missile tests show qualitative improvement.

Antony Blinken, US deputy secretary of state

Washington: The United States said on Thursday North Korea had demonstrated a “qualitative” improvement in nuclear and missile capabilities after an unprecedented level of tests last year, showing the need to sustain pressure on Pyongyang to bring it back to disarmament negotiations.

US deputy secretary of state Antony Blinken said after a meeting with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts that North Korea had conducted 24 missile tests in the past year, as well as two nuclear tests, and learned from each one.

“Even a so-called failure is progress because ... they apply what they have learned to their technology and to the next test. And in our assessment, we have a qualitative improvement in their capabilities in the past year as a result of this unprecedented level of activity,” he said.

“With every passing day,  the threat does get more acute,” Mr Blinken said, and referred to comments by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Sunday that his country was close to test-launching an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) of a kind that could someday hit the US.

Mr Blinken said it was vital for the US, Japan, South Korea and other countries to boost cooperation to defend against the threat.

“At the same time, it’s absolutely vitally important that we exercise sustained, comprehensive pressure on North Korea to get it to stop these programmes, to come back to the negotiating table, and to engage in good faith on denuclearisation,” Mr Blinken said, referring to international sanctions.