North Korea could test another intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) as early as Wednesday night, according to a U.S. official.
If the regime launches an ICBM, it will be the 11th ballistic missile test this year and the first since the nation’s historic Fourth of July ICBM test.
U.S. officials have suspected a test could occur on July 27 to mark the North Korean holiday known as “Day of Victory,” which celebrates the end of hostilities in the Korean War in 1953.
This next test is expected to be similar to the July 4 test: a KN-20 ICBM launched from Kusong Province. The KN-20, called the Hwasong-14 by North Korea, is a two-stage variant of the KN-17 missile, launched several times by North Korea in April and May.
The July 4 missile was launched into a high-altitude trajectory of 1,730 miles and flew horizontally 577 miles for 37 minutes into the Sea of Japan.
“It is escalatory. It is destabilizing. It is also dangerous,” said Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis, following the July 4 ICBM test. “This missile flew through busy airspace used by commercial airliners. It flew into space. It landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone, and an area that’s used by commercial and fishing vessels. All of this completely uncoordinated.”
President Donald Trump tweeted shortly after the ICBM launch, asking if North Korea leader Kim Jong Un had “anything better to do with his life.”
“North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life? Hard to believe that South Korea and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!” he said in a series of tweets.
In the days following that message, the president issued conflicting tweets — at one point chastising China for not doing enough to rein in trade with the rogue regime, but then praising an “excellent meeting” with Chinese President Xi Jinping on North Korea and trade policy.
On Tuesday, The Washington Post, citing an assessment from the Defense Intelligence Agency, reported that North Korea will be able to field a reliable, nuclear-capable ICBM as early as next year, reducing the forecast of the country’s ICBM capabilities by two years.
An expert on North Korea’s missile program, who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue, told ABC News that moving up the timeline was not surprising, as North Korea’s ICBM technology was further along than assessments had predicted.
Still, experts assess that North Korea does not presently have the re-entry technology needed for a nuclear warhead to reach its target, nor does it have the ability to miniaturize a nuclear warhead capable of being mounted on top of an ICBM.
“North Korea’s recent test of an intercontinental range ballistic missile — which was not a surprise to the Intelligence Community — is one of the milestones that we have expected would help refine our timeline and judgments on the threats that Kim Jong Un poses to the continental United States,” said Scott Bray, national intelligence manager for East Asia at the Office for the Director of National Intelligence, in a statement.
“This test, and its impact on our assessments, highlight the threat that North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs pose to the United States, to our allies in the region, and to the whole world,” he added. “The Intelligence Community is closely monitoring the expanding threat from North Korea.”
Source: ABC News, originally published 26 July 2017