North Korean leader Kim Jong Un began the new year on Sunday by announcing that the country is nearing the testing phase for its long-range missiles. “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 New Year’s Day greeting. The country frequently tested its ballistic missiles in 2016, to the alarm of the West, but most experts have maintained that it’s a long way away from successfully using long-range missiles capable of hitting the U.S. A successful test of an ICBM would be a leap forward for Pyongyang’s controversial weapons program, which has been a thorn in the side of North Korea’s relations with the West since 2006, when the U.N. imposed sanctions over missile testing. Kim’s announcement comes after reports that President-elect Donald Trump took a special interest in North Korea’s nuclear program, with his only request for a classified intelligence briefing focusing on the subject.
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