Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a congressional hearing that North Korea poses a direct threat to the United States with its long-range missiles and other weapons programs.
Milley made the remarks on Tuesday at a hearing of the House armed services committee, just days after Pyongyang said it tested its long-range Hwasong-17.
“The DPRK continues to enhance its ballistic missile capability and possesses the technical capacity to present a real danger to the U.S. homeland as well as our allies and partners across the Indo-Pacific,” Milley said.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is the official name of North Korea.
“[North Korean leaders] 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.”
North Korea has conducted a flurry of weapons tests since the start of the year, culminating in the March 24 firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile, which marked the first time Pyongyang had conducted a full ICBM launch since 2017.
Analysts believe that North Korea’s long-range missiles have the range to reach the entire continental United States with a nuclear warhead.
Officials have also detected heightened activity at North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site in recent months, suggesting a forthcoming detonation.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said at the hearing on Tuesday that the United States must “remain vigilant” to the danger from North Korea.
“We face persistent threats from North Korea, with its nuclear arsenal and developing missile capability,” Austin said.
President Joe Biden is seeking a $773 billion defense budget for 2023, which would be an increase of 4%.
The budget is necessary to focus on the “pacing challenge of China,” Austin said in an earlier statement.
“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.”