North might test 2nd ICBM in 2 weeks: U.S. officials

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North might test 2nd ICBM in 2 weeks: U.S. officials

North Korea may be preparing another intercontinental ballistic missile test in about two weeks, according to a report citing U.S. intelligence sources.

CNN reported Wednesday that U.S. satellites detected new imagery and satellite-based radar emissions that indicate North Korea may be testing components and missile control facilities for another ICBM or intermediate-range missile launch.

It said two U.S. administration officials familiar with the latest intelligence on the North confirmed there are indicators for another ICBM or IRBM launch in about two weeks. This follows Pyongyang’s ICBM launch on July 4, which the Pentagon described as “not one we have seen before,” and comes amid efforts by the South to initiate military-level talks.

Two defense officials also told CNN that a North Korean Romeo-class submarine was spotted in the East Sea engaging in “unusual deployment activity” for around 48 hours, which could indicate Pyongyang is continuing to test submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM).

Based on reconnaissance imagery, they further indicated that the submarine’s patrol sailed out farther than ever before, some 100 kilometers (62 miles) out to sea in international waters, and that its activity was different from usual training drills.

A South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff official told reporters in Seoul Thursday that he was unable to confirm the report on the ICBM preparations, but added, “In preparation for North Korea’s ballistic missile threat, as a part of South Korea-U.S. cooperation, our militaries are employing our combined surveillance assets.”

Gen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate armed services committee that Pyongyang has not demonstrated a “capacity to strike the United States with any degree of accuracy or reasonable confidence of success.” But he also pointed out that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is “good at camouflage, concealment and deception,” saying that he was confident U.S. intelligence could monitor missile testing, but not deployment.

Cho June-hyuck, spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said through a briefing that the South Korean and U.S. militaries “are closely tracking and monitoring” any nuclear or ballistic missile threats and urged North Korea to return to denuclearization, adding “provocation will only result in even tougher sanctions and pressure.” The United States, however, did not include North Korea in its latest list of state sponsors of terrorism Wednesday, despite calls from congressmen and government officials, including State Secretary Rex Tillerson, to include it to exert further pressure on the regime.

The U.S. Department of State on Wednesday issued its Country Reports on Terrorism 2016, which listed Iran, Sudan and Syria as state sponsors of terrorism for the second year in a row, but excluded North Korea.

North Korea was first placed on the list in 1988 for bombing a Korea Air flight the previous year, but was removed under the George W. Bush administration in October 2008 after it was certified not to have provided any support for international terrorism during the preceding six-month period, with assurances by the North “that it would not support acts of international terrorism in the future.”

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]
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