Policy

Obama on North Korea's Nuclear Aims: 'Big Worry'

Kim's official media agency calls Obama a 'nuclear war lunatic'

File footage of North Korean missiles in April. (Photo by JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama on Thursday warned that North Korea’s young leader is hell bent on developing a nuclear weapon , even as that country criticized his planned Friday visit to a site where the United States once dropped an atomic bomb.  

Obama called the mostly isolated country’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon a "big worry for all of us," even while saying U.S. officials believe “they’re not at a point right now that they can effectively hit U.S. targets.”  

But that’s not for a lack of trying. A database compiled by the Arms Control Association , which tracks North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests, shows the Asian nation has been busy at work on both programs for decades.  

[ Trump's North Korea Plan Shows He's 'Ill-Prepared' ]  

In recent years, most of the North’s tests have failed.  

But Obama said those failures, like a pair in late April , should not lull America and other countries into a false sense of security.  

“Each time that they test, even if those tests fail, they learn something,” he said during a G-7 summit in Japan. “And it is clear that ideologically they are convinced — and Kim Jong Un in particular seems to think that his own legitimacy is tied up with developing nuclear weapons.”  

Obama has had some success on his goal of moving the world toward a nuclear-free state, having worked with Russia, and then Iran . But he acknowledged Thursday that he was unable to make progress on North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.  

[ Obama: World Leaders 'Rattled' by Trump's 'Ignorance of World Affairs' ]  

On Friday, Obama is slated to visit Hiroshima , where the United States dropped an atomic bomb during World War II.   

The North Korean official news agency called that planned trip a "childish political calculation," according to ABC News .  

The Korean Central News Agency ran a commentary Thursday alleging that the Hiroshima visit was nothing but a rouse aimed at concealing the 44th U.S. president's standing as a "nuclear war lunatic."  

Contact John T. Bennett at johnbennett@cqrollcall.com and follow him on Twitter @BennettJohnT .  

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