Intelligence agencies are closely watching a North Korean missile launch site amid signs a test-firing will take place in the next two months, U.S. officials said, echoing reports from South Korea and Japan.
One official said the indicators from the launch site appear to be “a replay of the April launch, hopefully with the same success.”
North Korea’s last Taeopodong-2 missile was test-fired April 13 in what defense officials said was a failure shortly after the first stage lifted off.
Commercial satellite images from Friday and made public by DigitalGlobe revealed increased activity associated with a forthcoming missile launch at the North Korea’s Dongchang-ri launch site in the northwestern part of the country.
The Taepodong-2 is a liquid-fueled missile capable of reaching parts of the United States, depending on the size of its warhead. It is not known if North Korea has nuclear missile warheads, but it has conducted at least two underground nuclear test blasts.
U.S. missile defenses are being prepared to counter the test-firing, should the missile threaten U.S. allies such as Japan or U.S. military forces in the region. The defenses include Aegis warships equipped with SM-3 anti-missile interceptors. Ground-based long-range interceptors based in Alaska and California also are being readied.
Other components of the missile-defense network include ground-, sea- and space-based sensors and radar used to detect missile launches and help guide interceptors to make high-speed hits on warheads.
The missile defense system was last activated prior to the test-firing in April.
After the Oct. 7 missile agreement was announced, North Korea's National Defense Commission denounced it and stated three days later that it would “strengthen missile capabilities in every way.”
A Pyongyang government statement also said that new missile developments would “not leave the U.S. mainland safe” from attack.
For this reason, U.S. intelligence analysts believe the next test will be announced as a missile and not a satellite launch.
North Korea’s announcement in October also stated that its Strategic Rocket Forces are now capable of hitting U.S. and South Korean military targets on the Korean Peninsula.View Entire Story
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Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.
He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.
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