North may be preparing another missile test

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North may be preparing another missile test

North Korea appears to be preparing for another missile launch, possibly to coincide with a Thursday celebration to mark the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, according to U.S. reports.

Transporter vehicles carrying ballistic missile launching equipment were seen arriving in Kusong, North Pyongan Province, in North Korea on Friday, an unnamed U.S. official told CNN Tuesday, saying such movement usually indicates that a test could happen within six days.

North Korea celebrates July 27 as Victory Day. This year it will mark the 64th anniversary of the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War.

Last week, U.S. experts said North Korea is likely preparing a test in the near future of an updated submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), after one of its submarines deployed from its eastern coast.

The 38 North website, which is run by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, cited on Thursday commercial satellite imagery from June 30 of the Sinpo South Shipyard in the North’s eastern coast that showed that a Sinpo-class submarine and a submersible test stand barge had been repositioned.

The movement recorded could indicate long-term preparations for a test of its Pukguksong-1, or KN-11, SLBM, which appears to have last been tested last August.

There was also movement around the construction halls at the Sinpo shipyard, which the report said could indicate that the North is building something, though it is unclear if this is a new class of ballistic missile submarine.

North Korea launched its Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on July 4 from North Pyongan, a new type never seen before, according to the Pentagon.

A KN-17 intermediate-range missile tested in May was launched from Kusong as well.

The Pentagon is set to conduct another test of its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) antimissile system based in Alaska this weekend, U.S. Defense Department spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told Fox News on Monday, amid the growing ballistic missile threat from North Korea.

The Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff on Wednesday said it could not confirm the details of intelligence on the North Korean military.

A JCS spokesman said on Wednesday in a briefing in Seoul, “To prepare for the possibility of various provocations by North Korea, our military is closely monitoring and tracking the North Korean military’s movements through the integrated operation of the South-Korea-U.S. combined surveillance assets.”

China has been bolstering defenses along its 880-mile border with North Korea to prepare for a potential crisis in the area, including the possibility of a U.S. military strike, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

It reported through a review of official military and government websites and consulting with experts that such recent measures by Beijing include establishing a new border defense brigade, 24-hour video surveillance of the mountainous border through aerial drones, and bunkers to protect against nuclear and chemical blasts. The Chinese military was also said to have “merged, moved and modernized” units in the border regions that have engaged in a range of drills involving special forces and airborne troops that could be sent into North Korea in a time of crisis.

Katina Adams, U.S. State Department spokeswoman for its East Asia and the Pacific Affairs Bureau, told the Voice of America Tuesday that North Korea’s dismantling of its nuclear and missile program is the only way toward stability and economic prosperity. She recalled the summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Korean President Moon Jae-in last month in which they agreed to put maximum pressure on North Korea to halt its provocations and to resume constructive dialogue.

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

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