North Korea makes a bid for Trump’s attention with New Year’s nuclear threat

New Year, new nuclear posturing.
New Year, new nuclear posturing.
Image: AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon
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North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un rang in the New Year by vowing to test an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), Bloomberg reports. The move sets the stage for a 2017 face-off with the Trump administration.

“Research and development of cutting edge arms equipment is actively progressing and ICBM rocket test launch preparation is in its last stage,” Kim said in a televised speech.

Kim has worked to develop a nuclear missile capable of reaching California since taking power in 2011. ICBMs are designed to travel between 5,500 km and 10,000 km. California is about 9,000 km from North Korea.

Donald Trump called Kim a “maniac” during his campaign, but also suggested he would hold direct negotiations with the North Korean leader—or at least be open to chatting with him over a hamburger. Meanwhile, North Korean state media endorsed Trump during the 2016 US presidential campaign, calling him a “wise politician” whose “inflammatory policies” were preferable to those of ”dull” Hillary Clinton.

The dictator’s remarks on ICBMs are likely an effort to convince Trump to take North Korea seriously as a nuclear power, according to Kim Tae-woo, a professor at Konyang University in South Korea specializing in military issues.

“North Korea is showing its leverage ahead of future negotiations with the Trump administration,” Tae-woo told Bloomberg. Reuters reported that one of the president-elect’s few requests for a special classified intelligence briefing was about Kim’s weapons program.