July 31 (UPI) — There is evidence North Korea‘s domestic economy is growing alongside increased missile provocations, Seoul’s spy agency said Monday.
Speaking at a closed-door session for South Korean lawmakers, third deputy director of national intelligence Kim Sang-gyun said North Korea’s weapons development is not interfering with economic development, according to Lee Cheol-woo, chairman of the National Assembly’s intelligence committee.
“North Korea continues to test missiles, but is experiencing no economic difficulty,” the spy agency official said, according to Lee and local news service EDaily.
Kim also reportedly said North Korea does not face challenges in obtaining conventional weapons from the international market, and more missile provocations are likely.
The spy agency official’s assessment of the North Korean economy is based on the growth in the number of mobile phone users in the country.
“I received reports there are 4.7 million mobile phones in North Korea,” Kim said, adding the growth in phone use is a sign the “economy is recovering.”
Lack of cooperation from Russia and China is a reason, the official said, “the United States is facing difficulties in sanctions implementation.”
Kim also provided Seoul’s latest updates on what North Korea has claimed to be its second test of an intercontinental ballistic missile.
The spy agency official said the “distance covered indicates an ICBM, but whether or not the test was successful remains unknown.”
Kim told lawmakers that “with the exception of the United States’ analysis, anyone else would have difficulties in judging whether the atmospheric re-entry” of the warhead loaded on the test missile was successful, according to Lee.
“We still have not determined the status of the missile launched by North Korea on July 4,” Lee said. “We have to wait for the results of the U.S. analysis.”