North has improved its east coast missile siteRecent satellite imagery shows North Korea has made a series of improvements at an east coast missile site, raising the possibility of the regime carrying out a threatened test of an intercontinental ballistic missile from there, a U.S. expert said Monday.
The Kalma missile test site near the eastern coast city of Wonsan is where the North conducted at least four tests of the Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile last year, and the facility would be a “logical choice” for an ICBM test, as well, said Joseph Bermudez, a North Korea military expert.
“Recent commercial satellite imagery indicates that Pyongyang has made a number of improvements at the site suggesting that it could support an ICBM launch if the North decides to go ahead,” Bermudez said in an article carried by the website 38 North.
During the past three months, several of the access roads have been re-graded and laid with gravel, suggesting preparation to handle missiles heavier than the Musudan IRBM like an ICBM, and a small 11-by-11-meter (36-by-36-foot) pad has been graded and gravel laid, he said.
In addition, the second launch position appears to have been regraded, although it remains unpaved, which, when complete, would allow for simultaneous launches of ballistic missiles. New ground scarring a short distance from the firing positions suggests the intention to install two telemetry or camera positions, perhaps for monitoring a long-range missile test, he said.
The site has been designed and previously used to test Musudan missiles, which is also a road-mobile missile like the ICBM the North is preparing to launch, and can easily be supported by the infrastructure of the nearby Kalma airport, the expert said. Moreover, like previous failed Musudan tests, a catastrophic failure of an ICBM would not impact North Korean soil, he said.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said in his New Year’s Day address that the regime has entered the final stage of preparations to test-fire an intercontinental ballistic missile, an apparent threat the North is close to developing a nuclear-tipped missile capable of striking the continental U.S.
Officials in Seoul said last week that South Korea and the United States have picked up signs that the North placed the two missiles, less than 15 meters long, on mobile launchers in an indication that Pyongyang could carry out a threatened ICBM test earlier than expected.