This undated handout picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 17, 2022 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as he observes the test-fire of a new-type tactical guided weapon in North Korea. [Source: CNN]
North Korea appears to be preparing for a possible intercontinental ballistic missile test within the next 48 to 96 hours.
Just as President Joe Biden is scheduled to travel to Asia, according to a US official familiar with the latest intelligence assessment.
“The things we have noticed in the past for a launch are the things we are noticing now,” the official said. The launch site under satellite observation is located near Pyongyang. The official would not detail specifics of the current imagery, but typically, intelligence analysts look for signs of scaffolding or other launcher equipment, fueling, vehicles and personnel.
Biden sets off for South Korea on Thursday and will hold meetings with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol before traveling to Japan on Sunday where he is set to meet with the leaders of Japan, Australia and India.
The US now believes that a North Korean missile launch on May 4 was a failed ICBM that exploded shortly after launch.
The US also had assessed that two ballistic missile tests on February 26 and March 4 involved a new ICBM that is under development by North Korea. According to the Pentagon the missile was originally shown for the first time at the Korean Workers Party parade on October 10, 2020.
After making those findings public in March, the Pentagon increased surveillance activity in the Yellow Sea as well as “enhanced readiness” of US missile defenses in the region.
CNN reported earlier this month that US military and intelligence agencies assess that North Korea could be ready to resume underground nuclear testing.
That assessment concluded that Kim Jong Un’s government was making preparations at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site and could be ready to conduct a test by the end of the month. Signs of personnel and vehicle activity at the site had been seen through satellite imagery, but the officials do not know if the regime has placed nuclear material in one of the underground tunnels at the test site, which the US has been closely watching.
This story is breaking and will be updated.