Sun, Oct 15, 2017 - Page 4 News List

N Korea readying missile launch: report

JOINT EXERCISE:The North could be preparing to test a new Hwasong-13 ICBM that could potentially reach the US west coast, a South Korean newspaper reported

AFP, SEOUL

North Korea is believed to be preparing to launch a ballistic missile ahead of an upcoming joint naval drill by the US and South Korea, a news report said yesterday, citing a government source.

The US Navy on Friday said that a US aircraft carrier is to lead the drill in the coming week, a fresh show of force against North Korea as tensions soar over the hermit state’s weapons program.

The move will likely rile Pyongyang, which has previously responded angrily to joint exercises.

The Donga Ilbo daily, quoting a government source, said that satellite images show ballistic missiles mounted on launchers being transported out of hangars near Pyongyang and in North Phyongan Province.

US and South Korean military officials suspect that the North might be preparing to launch missiles capable of reaching US territory, the newspaper said.

This could be the Hwasong-14 inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM), which could reach Alaska, or Hwasong-12 intermediate-range missiles, which Pyongyang in August threatened to fire toward the US Pacific territory of Guam, the report said.

Another possibility is that the North might be preparing to test a new Hwasong-13 ICBM that has a longer maximum range than the other two missiles and could potentially reach the US west coast, it added.

A US Department of Defense spokesman declined to comment on the report, saying: “We don’t comment on any matters of military intelligence.”

“We are keeping a close watch over the North,” he added.

The joint drills led by the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier come after hectic US military hardware movements around the Korean Peninsula.

These follow a flurry of missiles from Pyongyang, which conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test last month in defiance of international sanctions.

On Friday, the nuclear-powered USS Michigan submarine arrived at the southern South Korean port of Busan, just days after another nuclear-powered submarine — the USS Tuscon — left after a five day visit.

Earlier this week, the US flew two supersonic heavy bombers over the Korean Peninsula, staging the first nighttime joint aviation exercises with Japan and South Korea.

That mission came 17 days after four US F-35B stealth jets and two B-1Bs flew over the peninsula.

University of North Korean Studies professor Yang Moo-Jin said it was “highly likely” that the North could launch missiles in response to next week’s joint navy drill.

US President Donald Trump’s continued threats of military action against Pyongyang have fueled fears of conflict on the Korean Peninsula.

However, military intervention against North Korea would have “devastating consequences,” NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday, after Trump said that diplomatic efforts had failed.

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