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Inside the Ring: New North Korea ICBM

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 4, 2012

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.

Other defense officials said the military has activated its global missile-defense system that includes ships in the region; space-, sea- and land-based radar and sensors; and 30 ground-based interceptors based in Alaska and California.

CHINA POWER STRUGGLE

China's internal Communist Party power struggle is continuing after the ouster last month of Bo Xilai, a party leader in Chongqing.

Zhou Yongkang, China's most senior party security enforcer and one-time ally of Mr. Bo's, said during a training session for security officials in Beijing last week that all must closely follow Beijing's party line, according to reports from the region.

His order came as China arrested about 1,000 people for spreading Internet rumors that a military coup was afoot as part of the power struggle between leftist forces, including Mr. Bo, and more reform-oriented communists. China also banned comments on several Internet sites.

Mr. Zhou's comments were the first of a nationwide program of training security officials to maintain a "high degree of consistency" with Beijing dictates.

The comments followed recent statements of support for Mr. Bo, who launched a new Cultural Revolution-style Maoist ideological campaign in Chongqing that Beijing saw as diverging from its policies.

The all-but-invisible power struggle in China has taken several turns since it was first brought to light by would-be Chinese defector Wang Lijun, who was turned away from the U.S. Consulate in neighboring Chengdu by what U.S. officials say was a decision by the White House not to grant his request for asylum.

An official said Mr. Wang had not only signed a formal request for political asylum, but also asked to be flown out of the country on a U.S. jet.

Another sign of intrigue related to the unfolding political drama was a recent report that Neil Heywood, a former British intelligence officer who was found dead in a Chongqing hotel room in November, was linked to the political power struggle.

According to U.S. officials, it was Mr. Wang's attempted defection that set off the power struggle between Beijing reform-oriented Communist Party leaders, led by Hu Jintao, and leftists who sought a return to the more doctrinaire communism of Mao Zedong, who historians say was to blame for the death of 60 million Chinese under communist rule.

Mr. Wang disclosed to U.S. Consulate officials that he and police investigators in Chongqing had come under fire from Mr. Bo, after they uncovered corruption related to Mr. Bo's wife, Gu Kailai.

Mr. Wang feared for his life as a result and escaped to the consulate, only to be turned over the Ministry of State Security, China's political police and intelligence service, on Feb. 7. He has not been seen or heard from since.

In the past two weeks, the Wall Street Journal disclosed that Mr. Heywood told friends he feared for his life after a falling out with Mr. Bo's wife.

He had told associates that much of Mr. Bo's family business was handled by Mrs. Gu. She had become suspicious of enemies and asked Mr. Heywood to divorce his Chinese wife and swear a loyalty oath to Mr. Bo's clan. Mrs. Gu became angry when he refused.

The British government is said to have asked China to investigate the circumstances of the former MI-6 officer's death.

RUMMY'S HELP

Former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is coming to the aid of an Iraq war veteran who is trying for a second time to unseat a senior House Democrat in North Carolina.

Former Marine Corps Lt. Ilario Pantano stood out among Iraq combatants. He left a comfortable life in Manhattan to join the Corps after the 9/11 attacks, only to see the Marines charge him with murder in the shooting deaths of two Iraqi insurgents in the violence-racked Triangle of Death.

But a hearing officer determined his main accuser was disgruntled, and an autopsy showed the dead men were shot in the front, not in the back, as the accuser said.

Vindicated, Mr. Pantano resigned his commission and settled in North Carolina. He is running as a Republican against Rep. Mike McIntyre, currently serving his eighth term.

Mr. Pantano is coming to Washington April 16 to appear with Mr. Rumsfeld at a private reception at the Capitol Hill Club. The fundraiser, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., is sponsored by Afghanistan and Iraq Veterans for Congress.

Mr. Rumsfeld remains popular with conservatives who see him as a main architect of the war on al Qaeda, putting in place policies and tactics used by the Obama administration today.

In 2010, Mr. Pantano lost to Mr. McIntyre, who got 54 percent of the vote.

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