U.S. Officials Believe North Korea Preparing Another Missile Test

This undated photo released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on December 11, 2016 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (front C) during a combat drill of the service personnel of the special operation battalion of the Korean People's Army Unit 525. / AFP / KCNA VIA …
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U.S. defense officials told CNN on Monday that North Korea “appears to be preparing for another missile test,” possibly timed to coincide with North Korea’s armistice holiday on Thursday, July 27.

The date will mark the 64th anniversary of the end of the Korean War – or, technically, the suspension of the Korean War, since a full peace treaty was never signed. North Korea celebrates the anniversary as “The Day of Victory in the Great Fatherland Liberation War,” or “Victory Day” for short.

According to these officials, ballistic missile launching equipment has been delivered to Kusong, a common location for North Korean missile tests. Also, American satellites have detected signs of North Korea testing components and missile control facilities.

The Japan Times reports similar observations from South Korean intelligence and military sources. Some South Korean officials believe Pyongyang may use “Victory Day” to test a new intercontinental ballistic missile, which would explain why a North Korean submarine is currently cruising in the Sea of Japan, acting like the wide receiver for a very long pass.

Australia’s News.com notes that the United States is planning an imminent test of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in Alaska in the very near future. The United States is working on installing a THAAD system in South Korea to defend against North Korean missiles.

Based on an advisory issued to Alaskan mariners by the Coast Guard, this test could occur as soon as Saturday. However, the Pentagon said the test was planned long in advance and is not a response to current events, such as a prospective North Korean ICBM test.

On Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that a confidential assessment by the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency has concluded North Korea may be able to deploy a “reliable, nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile as early as next year,” putting it at least two years ahead of previous forecasts. The revised assessment, which agrees with revisions made by South Korean intelligence agencies, was based in part on the surprising sophistication of North Korea’s recent missile tests.

According to the WaPo report, American officials are worried that North Korea’s upcoming missile test could include a new vehicle for atmospheric re-entry, which is the major component of a nuclear ICBM that Pyongyang has been missing. Dictator Kim Jong-un has threatened to test a nuclear-capable ICBM by the end of this year.

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