N. Korea testing missile capable of reaching U.S.

N. Korea testing missile capable of reaching U.S.

A Taepodong-2 missile is seen during a test firing in North Korea in 2009. North Korea is forging ahead with missile tests after a launch in April reportedly failed.

The Pentagon is preparing to activate global missile defenses for an expected test launch of another long-range missile by North Korea, U.S. defense officials said.Intelligence agencies are closely watching a North Korean missile launch site amid signs a test-firing will take place in the next two months, U.S. officials said, echoing reports from South Korea and Japan.One official said the indicators from the launch site appear to be “a replay of the April launch, hopefully with the same success.”North Korea’s last Taepodong-2 missile was test-fired April 13 in what defense officials said was a failure shortly after the first stage lifted off.Commercial satellite images from Friday and made public by DigitalGlobe revealed increased activity associated with a forthcoming missile launch at the North Korea’s Dongchang-ri launch site in the northwestern part of the country.The Taepodong-2 is a liquid-fueled missile capable of reaching parts of the United States, depending on the size of its warhead. It is not known if North Korea has nuclear missile warheads, but it has conducted at least two underground nuclear test blasts.

U.S. missile defenses are being prepared to counter the test-firing, should the missile threaten U.S. allies such as Japan or U.S. military forces in the region. The defenses include Aegis warships equipped with SM-3 anti-missile interceptors. Ground-based long-range interceptors based in Alaska and California also are being readied.Other components of the missile-defense network include ground-, sea- and space-based sensors and radar used to detect missile launches and help guide interceptors to make high-speed hits on warheads.Pentagon spokesman George Little declined to comment on the defense preparations.The missile defense system was last activated prior to the test-firing in April.North Korea signaled its intention to conduct another missile test in October in response to a U.S.-South Korea agreement that permits Seoul’s military to develop its own longer-range missile force.After the Oct. 7 missile agreement was announced, North Korea’s National Defense Commission denounced it and stated three days later that it would “strengthen missile capabilities in every way.

”A Pyongyang government statement also said that new missile developments would “not leave the U.S. mainland safe” from attack.For this reason, U.S. intelligence analysts believe the next test will be announced as a missile and not a satellite launch.North Korea’s announcement in October also stated that its Strategic Rocket Forces are now capable of hitting U.S. and South Korean military targets on the Korean Peninsula.The saber-rattling of its missile capabilities coincides with the first emergence of current leader Kim Jong-un in September 2010.Officials said it does not appear that North Korea plans to test its new long-range road-mobile ICBM.Intelligence reports from December 2011 revealed that Pyongyang was developing its first road-mobile ICBM capable of hitting the United States.In June 2011, then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said North Korea was becoming a “direct threat” to the United States as a result of the new mobile ICBM.The Taepodong-2 is a launch-pad missile that North Korea has described as a space-launch vehicle to put satellites into orbit.The Pentagon, however, considers the Taepodong-2 a long-range missile.

Source: Times 247

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