Details of a new North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) surfaced this week with a report from Asia that U.S. spy agencies spotted what appears to be a larger long-range missile than the one now being readied for launch in the next two weeks.
South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper quoted government sources as saying the new missile was seen at a missile-development center in Pyongyang, but noted that it is not clear if the missile is a functional system or a mockup.
The April 3 report said the new missile is about 130 feet long, compared to the estimated 100-foot-long Taepodong-2 missile photographed recently on a launchpad.
Asked about the new missile, Pentagon spokesman George Little on Tuesday did not directly comment.
“I would just merely say that this is something we’re working with our partners on,” he said.
Recent U.S. intelligence reports mentioned in Congress have said North Korea is developing a new road-mobile ICBM that can reach targets in the United States.
A CIA report to Congress made public recently stated that “North Korea continues to develop short-range and longer-range ballistic missiles.”
The new road-mobile missile was first reported in this space in December and confirmed March 2 by Adm. Robert F. Willard, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command.
“There is development within North Korea of a road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile system that we’ve observed,” he said last month.
The mobile missile is “advertised to be significant in terms of its range capability,” Adm. Willard added.
The missile is more difficult to counter because mobile missiles can be hidden in caves and are set up more easily and fired more rapidly than North Korea’s less-sophisticated liquid-fueled missiles, like the Taepodong-2.
On Pyongyang’s upcoming missile test, Mr. Little, the Pentagon spokesman, declined to outline the specific steps the U.S. military is taking in preparation for launch expected between April 12 and April 16.
North Korea claims the launch is designed to put a satellite into orbit and has invited countries in the region to observe.
The United States says any missile test or space launch would violate U.N. resolutions barring missile tests and development.
“We, along with our partners in the region, are monitoring developments very closely, and that’s where I’ll leave it,” Mr. Little said.