North Korea could nuke the US as early as July 23, 2018, according to Britain's Ministry of Defence

  • Kim Jong Un's regime could launch a fully-capable nuclear strike by the middle of summer 2018, according to an assessment by Britain's defence ministry.

  • Lord Howe told MPs this January that a missile could be ready in as little as six months, a deadline of late July.

  • The Ministry of Defence confirmed to Business Insider that it stands by the assessment.

  • Pyongyang tested successful intercontinental ballistic missiles last year.

  • The next step is combining it to a nuclear warhead, which would allow a full-blown strike.

North Korea could launch a full-blown nuclear strike on the US as early as July 23, 2018, according to a prediction from Britain's Ministry of Defence.

A government minister gave the assessment to a parliamentary committee earlier this year as part of its efforts to assess Kim Jong Un's ability to precipitate a nuclear war.

Lord Howe, a British defence minister, told parliament's Defence Select Committee that the MoD thought North Korea will be fully nuclear-capable within "six to eighteen months."

The statements, made at a hearing on January 23 this year, were published Thursday in a committee report on North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

Taken from the date he made the assessment, Howe's timeframe means the earliest possible date for a strike is six months from January 23, which is July 23, 2018. The far estimate is the same date in 2019.

The Ministry of Defence confirmed to Business Insider that it stands by the dates.

Howe told MPs: "We judge that they [North Korea] 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 eighteen months before they have an ICBM capability that is capable of reaching the coast of the United States or indeed ourselves."

North Korea tested multiple nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) late last year. Based on the tests, experts said that North Korea could probably get a missile to hit the US — but still lacked the technology to carry a heavy nuclear warhead that far.

The Ministry of Defence believes it is now working on combining the nuclear warhead with the ICBM. The two elements combined would allow the Kim regime to carry out a long-range strike.

Lord Howe said: "A nuclear strike capability depends on marrying up the ballistic missile with the warhead, and that is, we judge, work in progress."

The Ministry of Defence confirmed Lord Howe's assessment on Thursday.

"We stand by our defence minister's comments," a spokesman told Business Insider.

Although there appears to be a growing rapprochement between North Korea and the US,Pyongyang appears to be preparing a satellite launch that could ruin the upcoming discussions.

North Korea has scuppered multiple talks about its denuclearisation by launching satellites in the past.

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