North Korean leader Kim Jong Un could be gearing up his military to conduct a long-range missile test in the coming days or weeks, on the heels of a cryptic message earlier this month from the country in which it stated that America will be receiving an unknown “gift.”
According to CNBC, the veiled threat was leveled after the country implored the U.S. government to change their tune on denuclearization talks, as the previous three attempts between the North Korean leader and President Donald Trump eventually led to stalemates.
Vipin Narang, a professor of political science at MIT, believes that the “gift” for the United States could come in the form of a long-range missile test, citing an uptick in short-range tests throughout the course of the past year.
“The message was loud and clear. This was Kim Jong Un’s maximum pressure campaign on President Trump. Like if you’re not hearing me about changing your calculations and giving sanctions relief and security guarantee and getting rid of the hostile policy, I can show you what long-range missiles look like,” Narang explained.
Narang also pointed out that Kim Jong Un typically doesn’t bluff and that a long-range missile could be in store as it’s one of the few actions the rogue Asian country can take that immediately grabs the world’s attention, given the intense secrecy of their military capabilities.
“Now, with the end of the year approaching we may end up seeing what Kim Jong Un can do when he turns up the volume,” Narang added.
And Narang’s prediction is looking more solid by the hour, as NBC News reported on Saturday afternoon that a North Korean factory responsible for producing intercontinental ballistic missiles has been expanded.
Satellite images appeared to show a piece of equipment at the production facility that’s used when long-range ICBMs are being modified.
“We believe North Korea erects this structure when the facility is involved in producing or modifying ICBM launchers,” explained Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.
Lewis added that additional sites around North Korea with similar capabilities have been expanded in the way of additional buildings and systems, pointing to a potential increase in ICBM capabilities.
Gen. Charles Brown, a top U.S. Air Force commander, believes the “gift” from North Korea could happen around the Christmas or New Year holidays, adding that it’s his job to pay close attention to such threats.
The last long-range missile test by North Korea happened in 2017. Brown indicated that the U.S. will be prepared for new threats and would be able to quickly “dust off” countermeasures that were used in 2017.