North Korea will almost certainly be able to reach the UK with a nuclear weapon within 18 months if its weapons programme continues at the same pace, MPs have said.
The Commons defence select committee report into the country said it was a ‘reasonable assumption’ the North could reach the UK already and that it is ‘almost certain’ to be able to carry nuclear warheads to these shores by 2019.
It added the UK has a ‘limited’ ballistic missile defence system – but also noted there had been ‘no sign’ of Kim Jong-un wanting to target the UK with nuclear weapons.
The report also suggested North Korea could be ‘dissuaded’ from using nuclear weapons – adding the leader was ‘ruthless… but rational’.
It said: ‘We believe it is obvious to North Korea that launching such weapons would lead inescapably to devastating military consequences from the US, South Korea and other countries too.
‘It would result in the downfall – indeed the annihilation of the regime: the polar opposite of what Kim Jong-un is seeking to achieve.
‘He is ruthless, like other Communist dictators before him, but he is rational.’
The North carried out a number of nuclear tests in 2016 and 2017 which led to escalating tensions between itself and South Korea and the United States.
But in announcing talks between Kim and US president Donald Trump, a South Korean official said the North Korean leader was committed to denuclearisation.
The select committee report also covers the cyber threat posed by North Korea – which was blamed for the WannaCry ransomware attack which struck computers at NHS trusts last year.
It said: ‘It is likely that North Korea has already successfully attacked the UK with the Wannacry ransonware, although we agree with the Government that the UK was probably not intended to be the principal target.
‘Nevertheless, the Wannacry attack highlighted basic vulnerabilities in UK information technology systems.
‘With North Korea unconcerned by who gets hurt when it lashes out, the UK will continue to be at risk from North Korean cyber-attacks.’
It called on the Government to find additional funding for cyber defence to counter this threat.