WASHINGTON -- US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Wednesday that North Korea seeks to attain legitimacy by developing its nuclear and ballistic missile capability.
Esper made the remarks in a written statement to the House Armed Services Committee ahead of a hearing on the Pentagon's 2021 budget request.
"North Korea seeks to build legitimacy through the development of a variety of nuclear, conventional, and unconventional weapons, and by growing its ballistic missile capabilities," he said. "Our forces on the Korean Peninsula remain at a high state of readiness, alongside our Republic of Korea counterparts. While we support continued diplomatic efforts to bring about lasting peace in Korea, we remain prepared to fight and win tonight, if required."
US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley also alluded to the continued threat posed by North Korea's weapons of mass destruction programs.
"Despite the diplomatic thaw between the United States and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, North Korea threatens our regional Allies and our homeland with nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities," he said in his statement to the committee. "We must have a force posture to deter and defend against these threats, as well as Pyongyang's extensive conventional forces. The Joint Force must maintain readiness on the Korean Peninsula, as well as in defense of our homeland, to be prepared for multiple contingencies."
The comments suggest that North Korea has continued to build its nuclear and ballistic missile programs as denuclearization negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang have stalled since the no-deal summit in February 2019 between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. (Yonhap)