1. Accelerated North Korean Nuclear and Missile Threat
North Korea has embarked on an ambitious new five-year military modernization plan, and we are likely to continue to see Kim’s efforts create a nuclear triad that can survive a first strike. Some of the weapons the North has tested this year include a new long-range cruise missile, a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SRBM), a new rail-mobile based mode for SRBMs, and a new hypersonic boosted-guided missile. Particularly in the latter half of 2022, after the Beijing Winter Olympics in February and South Korea’s presidential election in March, the North could seek to escalate tensions, even carrying out an ICBM test (such as the yet untested Hwasong-16), or a nuclear test. These tests fit the North’s broad strategic objectives of bolstering its nuclear deterrent while seeking added leverage in future diplomacy with the United States. Kim’s short-term goal is to achieve significant sanctions relief; his long-term objective is to be recognized as a nuclear power.