US anticipates new round of missile, nuclear testing by North KoreaMarch 16, 2017
The US intelligence community and the Defense Department are increasingly anticipating that North Korea will soon undertake a new round of testing of its missile and nuclear program, according to half a dozen US officials.
The officials are closely watching the regime’s programs and there are growing intelligence indicators of fresh and concerning activity inside North Korea. The major source of that intelligence for the US is spy satellites that survey the regime from overhead, so there is little ability to fully understand what leader Kim Jung Un may decide to do.
At the same time, these officials said, North Korea is taking fresh steps to disguise its activities, knowing satellites are overhead watching. There is intelligence indicating the regime is moving equipment to areas they have not used before, believing the US cannot track them there. As always, the regime sometimes moves vehicles, launchers and personnel around without any launches or tests, simply hoping to confuse the US, officials say.
In an unusually detailed public acknowledgment of what may be coming, Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, issued a statement after he spoke to his South Korean counterpart, Gen. Sun Jin Lee, on Tuesday.
Dunford said the two “assessed changes in North Korea’s nuclear and missile threat” but then went on to say the two “discussed response options.”
Dunford’s statement also said the two “recognized the possibility that North Korea could conduct provocative actions” during ongoing US-South Korean military exercises or during upcoming celebration periods in North Korea.
The latest indicators, US officials told CNN, is that North Korea has moved some launch equipment that is associated with an intercontinental ballistic missile launch.
The equipment has been observed near parade grounds, but the concern is it could quickly become part of an actual launch. The US does not believe a North Korean ICBM could currently reach the US, but any launch of a missile with that potential range would be very provocative, one US official said.