Pyongyang may launch a missile before U.S. election

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Pyongyang may launch a missile before U.S. election

North Korea is preparing to launch another intermediate range ballistic missile ahead of the U.S. presidential election, said a Korean military official Wednesday.

According to the official, movements by the loading transporter erector launcher (TEL) were detected in North Korea, which appear to be in preparation to launch another Musudan missile.

Pyongyang has a history of staging military provocations in time with political events. Speculations are high that the North will likely launch another missile in two to three days, as a probe into the so-called Choi-gate scandal, in which President Park Geun-hye’s longtime friend, Choi Soon-sil, is alleged to have meddled in administrative decisions and embezzled funds from two nonprofit foundations, is ongoing in the South, while the U.S expects its presidential election next week.

A Musudan missile has a range between 3,000 and 4,000 kilometers (1,864 and 2,485 miles), long enough to reach U.S. military installations in Guam.

It was first deployed in 2007 and the latest test-fire was on Oct. 16, when the missile exploded seconds after its launch.

“The movements were detected from the northwestern city of Kusong in North Pyongan Province, where the North attempted two Musudan launches last month,” said another military official on the condition of anonymity.

The official added, “given that TEL, or mobile missile launcher is used, the location of the actual launch is prone to change.”

The North claimed in September that it successfully conducted a ground test of a new high-powered engine designed for a geostationary satellite, which, if true, will bring the North closer to making a missile capable of flying across the Pacific to the U.S. mainland. Experts say the North will continue testing the new engine.

BY JEONG YONG-SOO, KIM YUNA [kim.yuna1@joongang.co.kr]

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