The British Ministry of Defence believes North Korea will be capable of launching a nuclear strike as early as this summer and will have intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that can reach British soil.
U.K.’s defence committee published its North Korea threat assessment Thursday, outlining the threat Kim Jong Un’s regime poses for Britain. Earl Howe, a British defence minister told the committee the North would be ready to carry out a nuclear strike in “six to 18 months.”
“We have seen a gradual advancement in their ballistic missile technology demonstrated over the last few years. With regards to capability, there is a significant buildup,” Howe told the committee. “We judge that they are now certainly capable of reaching targets in the short range, by which I mean Japan, South Korea—obviously—and adjoining territories.
“Our judgment is that it will probably be six to 18 months before they have an ICBM capability that is capable of reaching the coast of the United States or indeed ourselves,” Howe said of his assessment on Jan.23.
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Howe’s assessment came before the North sent a delegation to the Winter Olympics in South Korea, and before Kim agreed to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae In in April, and U.S. President Donald Trump at some point in May.
“We do not judge that their program is directed at the U.K.,” Howe said. “North Korea has stated on several occasions that it does not consider the U.K. to be its adversary. As evidence for that, it cites our official state relationship with it, and continues to reiterate that its capability development is in response to the United States’ so-called hostile policy against it.”
The North has not conducted a missile test since Nov. 28 last year.
The committee believes it’s more likely that the U.K. will suffer from more cyberattacks at the hands of the North.
“Our written evidence sets out where we are in dealing with that threat, but of course while we judge that Kim’s offensive cyber-capability is mainly directed towards South Korea, the consequences of irresponsible use of viruses and cyber-weaponry are unpredictable by their very nature, as we saw with the WannaCry virus,” Howe noted.
The WannaCry ransomware attack infected hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide and crippled parts of Britain’s National Health Service in May.