South Korea’s Defense Ministry filed a report to lawmakers on Friday that judged that North Korea’s new missile has the range capability to reach Washington, DC. Satellite imagery reveals the North Koreans may be preparing to launch another missile from the same site.
According to Fox News, South Korean intelligence remains uncertain whether the North Koreans have developed the all-important heat-shielding needed to protect an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) warhead from atmospheric reentry or if the new missile is accurate enough to hit a city at intercontinental range. A consensus is forming among analysts that, at the very least, North Korea’s new missile seems capable of reaching the continental United States, which is a substantial improvement in range from previous models they have tested.
Fox News also obtained photos from ImageSat International that appear to show a new missile launch pad under construction at Panghyon Airbase, the location of North Korea’s first real ICBM launch on July 4. Panghyon is also North Korea’s primary aircraft construction and repair site.
ImageSat analysts said this is the first time North Korea has “decided to rebuild a site that they have used before.”
The photos also show a new aircraft hangar under construction at Panghyon and aircraft “being moved and stored in hangars on the tarmac.”
South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon said on Thursday that North Korea’s new missile tests might threaten the 2018 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, which are scheduled to be held in the city of Pyeongchang, located in northeastern South Korea near the Taebaek Mountains.
“If the North provokes again at a time when the Olympic Games are imminent, it may deal a fatal blow to the Olympics,” Cho warned, adding that it is important to stage the Olympic Games in a “stable atmosphere.”
South Korea has been considering suspension of a regularly scheduled military exercise with the United States next year to avoid antagonizing North Korea around the time of the Olympics, but the idea has been under consideration for a “very long time,” as a South Korean presidential official put it. As of last week, no final decision on the military exercises had been made.