North capable of ‘normal-angle’ ICBM launch: South DIA
North Korea possesses full capabilities to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) at a “normal angle” and plans to conduct a seventh nuclear test aimed at miniaturizing warheads, South Korean military intelligence said Wednesday.
While North Korea has yet to launch an ICBM at a normal angle, it has “already obtained all the capabilities to do so and is adjusting its timeline to put pressure on the United States,” People Power Party (PPP) Rep. Yoo Sang-bum told reporters at the National Assembly after the briefing by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) to the parliamentary Intelligence Committee.
North Korea has thus far conducted ICBM tests at lofted trajectories, with its long-range missiles landing close by in the East Sea. But according to the assessment, Pyongyang now has the capabilities to launch them at a normal angle, which would enable them to fly much further, possibly putting U.S. mainland in reach.
At a lifted trajectory, the missiles go up and come almost straight down. At a normal angle, they are fired at a lower angle and are able to fly much farther.
Yoo said that North Korea will develop a solid-propellant ICBM this year.
He added that the agency also said that the possibility of the North launching a military spy satellite “is very high.”
Last December, North Korea said it plans to finish preparations for a reconnaissance satellite by April this year. This would violate UN Security Council resolutions, which prohibit North Korea from launching devices using ballistic missile technology.
North Korea is expected to conduct a seventh nuclear test as a means of completing its miniaturization of warheads, though a specific timeline was not confirmed by Seoul intelligence authorities.
“A seventh test is seen as essential to complete the miniaturization and reducing the weight of its nuclear bombs,” Yoo said.
Yoo said the DIA reported to lawmakers that Tunnel No. 3 at the Punggye-ri nuclear test facility is ready “to the extent that small or large nuclear tests can be carried out” at any time, but that the status of Tunnel No. 4 has not yet been confirmed.
In response to North Korea’s assertion that nuclear warheads can be mounted on multiple rocket launchers, the South’s military reported it may actually be launched from a ballistic missile system.
On Saturday, North Korea launched a Hwasong-15 ICBM from Sunan airport in Pyongyang into the East Sea within Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) west of Hokkaido.
Launched at a high angle, the missile flew 989 kilometers (614 miles) for over an hour, peaking at an altitude of 5,769 kilometers, according to the North’s state media.
This was the North’s first ICBM test since its launching of the Hwasong-17 last November. The Hwasong-17, with a range of over 15,000 kilometers, could potentially put U.S. mainland in range when fired at a flatter trajectory.
On Monday, North Korea launched two short-range missiles and claimed they were fired from a 600 millimeter multiple rocket launchers from its army’s long-range artillery unit.
In a statement carried by state media Monday, Kim Yo-jong, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister, defended North Korea’s nuclear and missile capabilities against naysayers and claimed that the regime “possessed satisfactory technology and capability” and will now “focus on increasing the quantity of their force.”
Kim warned that the North could use the Pacific Ocean as its “firing range” depending upon “the U.S. forces’ action.”
On Wednesday, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry denounced UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for taking an “extremely unfair and imbalanced attitude” toward its recent missile launches, which it claimed were response to Seoul and Washington’s joint military exercises.
North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Son-gyong in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the country’s recent actions were a “countermeasure against the U.S., which has frequently introduced such evident strategic attack means as strategic bombers into the Korean peninsula and, together with south Korea, posed a serious threat to the security interests” of his country.
He said that the UN chief “cannot be free from heavy responsibility” if “unwanted situations occur on the peninsula.”
BY SARAH KIM [email@example.com]