U.S. President-elect Donald Trump took to Twitter to vow that North Korea won’t develop a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the United States.
Views vary, sometimes wildly, on the exact state of North Korea’s closely guarded nuclear and missile programs, but after five atomic test explosions and a rising number of ballistic missile test launches, some experts believe the isolated communist state can arm short- and mid-range missiles with atomic warheads, AP reported.
Trump’s tweet on Monday night U.S. time was in response to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who said Sunday in his annual New Year’s address that preparations for launching an intercontinental ballistic missile have “reached the final stage.” He did not explicitly say a test was imminent.
Trump tweeted, “North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S. It won’t happen!”
North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S. It won’t happen!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 2, 2017
The morning after the tweet, top aide Kellyanne Conway said that while Trump was putting North Korea “on notice,” he was “not making policy at the moment.” Conway, who will serve as Trump’s White House counselor, said that as president, Trump “will stand between (North Korea) and missile capabilities.”
But other experts have said that it will be years before North Korea will be able to fire a nuclear warhead-armed missile at the United States. In 2016, North Korea tested ballistic missiles at an unprecedented rate.
“Research and development of cutting edge arms equipment is actively progressing and ICBM rocket test launch preparation is in its last stage,” Kim said on New Year’s Day in a televised speech.
North Korea has been under United Nations sanctions since 2006 over ballistic missile and nuclear tests.
On Jan. 6 of last year, North Korea claimed that it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb.
In another tweet, Trump lashed out at China, an ally of Pyongyang, for not assisting in properly dealing with the rogue state. “China has been taking out massive amounts of money & wealth from the U.S. in totally one-sided trade, but won’t help with North Korea. Nice!” he tweeted.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.