North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs pose a real danger to the U.S. homeland, as well as U.S. allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Tuesday.
Milley also said the North shows no signs of giving up its efforts to further advance its military capabilities.
“The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) continued weapons testing and development poses real threats to our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific as well as the homeland,” the Army general said in a written testimony submitted to the House Committee on Armed Services before a budget hearing on the day.
“The DPRK continues to enhance its ballistic missile capability and possesses the technical capacity to present a real danger to the US homeland as well as our allies and partners across the Indo-Pacific,” he added, referring to North Korea by its official name.
North Korea staged 12 rounds of missile tests this year, including seven in January alone that marked the largest number of missile launches it has conducted in a single month.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin agreed the North presents “persistent threats” to the U.S.
“We face persistent threats from North Korea, with its nuclear arsenal and developing missile capability,” he said in his own written testimony to the House armed services committee.
Officials in Seoul and Washington have said the North appears to be repairing underground tunnels at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site that was purportedly dismantled in 2018 as proof of its willingness to denuclearize.
Pyongyang in January said it may restart “all temporarily-suspended activities,” apparently referring to its self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile testing.
The country fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on March 24, marking its first ICBM test since November 2017.
“(North Koreans) show no signs of relenting in their myopic focus on military capability at the expense of their citizens and peace of the Korean Peninsula as well as the entire region,” Milley said.
The U.S. Department of Defense earlier submitted a request for a 4.1 percent increase in defense spending for fiscal year 2023, partly citing threats posed by North Korea.
“This budget gives us the resources we need to deliver on that promise. Our budget reflects our National Defense Strategy and the focus of that strategy on the pacing challenge of China,” the defense secretary said earlier, adding, “It preserves our readiness and deterrent posture against the threats we face today: the acute threat of an aggressive Russia and the constantly emerging threats posed by North Korea, Iran, and violent extremist organizations.”
The Joe Biden administration is seeking $813.3 billion in overall defense spending for fiscal year 2023, including a $733 billion budget for the defense department.
Meanwhile, the commander of U.S. Cyber Command said the North also poses cyber threats to the U.S. with an increased willingness to act on those threats.
“Iran and North Korea are cyber adversaries growing in sophistication and willingness to act,” Gen. Paul Nakasone said in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
“North Korea uses its cyber actors to generate revenue through criminal enterprises, such as hacking-for-hire and theft of cryptocurrency,” he added.
A U.N. panel of experts earlier said the North may have stolen as much as $400 million in cryptocurrency in 2021 alone, citing a report from a cybersecurity firm.
Nakasone said the U.S. currently maintains the ability to counter such threats, noting his command works with the Departments of State and Treasury to “stem Pyongyang’s campaigns.”