The US intelligence community believes that North Korea is preparing to conduct a new missile test in the coming days, a new report indicates, raising the possibility of an escalation in the already heated standoff between Washington and Pyongyang.
The North might test a new missile in the next two weeks, two US government officials confirmed to CNN on Wednesday, citing satellite imagery and radar emissions.
The officials said Pyongyang was testing missile components and control facilities but they could not confirm whether the next missile would be an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) or one with intermediate range.
Earlier this month, the North successfully test-fired what the US insists was an ICBM with an estimated range of 5,500 kilometers and capable of hitting Alaska.
Unsettled by Pyongyang’s missile tests and its development of nuclear deterrents, the administration of US President Donald Trump has adopted a war-like posture, repeatedly warning the North of military action.
General Paul Selva, vice chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate armed services committee on Tuesday that “we have to entertain that potential option” of a preemptive strike against the country.
The US has sent a strike group and conducting joint military drills with North Korea’s regional adversaries Japan and South Korea off the peninsula’s coast.
Trump has also put great pressure on China, as North Korea’s main trade partner, to curb the neighboring country’s military programs through economic pressure.
‘North working on submarine-launched missiles’
The CNN report also pointed to North Korea’s development of submarine-launched missiles, noting that the US military had observed an “unusual level” of submarine activity as well as testing a critical component that could be used in such weapons.
The two officials said a North Korean Romeo-class submarine has had an “unusual deployment activity” in the Sea of Japan/East Sea over the past two days.
US reconnaissance imagery showed that the 65-meter-long diesel-electric submersible was operating in international waters some 100 kilometers away from home.
The North has successfully test-fired a number of submarine-launched missiles over the last few years, although the US insists that the country’s missile program aboard submarines remains in the “very early” stages.