North Korea seen moving intercontinental ballistic missile: Seoul official

SEOUL • South Korean and US intelligence have spotted North Korea moving an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), along with four mobile launchers, at an auto plant on the outskirts of Pyongyang, a Seoul official has told a local media outlet.

"The missile is larger than the one they fired in 2017 and we believe they will showcase that at a military parade on Oct 10," the official said last Saturday.

North Korea fired its first ICBM, Hwasong-15, in 2017, and appears set to stage a show of force on the founding anniversary of its ruling party.

Speculation continues to mount over its unveiling of a more advanced ICBM, with some experts expressing reservations, contending that Pyongyang could not have developed newer technologies without outside help.

The Seoul official added that Pyongyang could unveil a newer submarine-launched ballistic missile as well as an enhanced submarine, pointing to intelligence that picked up signs of the activity involving the latest development at the North's Sinpo South Shipyard along the east coast.

Meanwhile, 38 North, a website monitoring North Korea, said last Friday that the North's short-range ballistic missiles remain vulnerable to interception by the South's anti-missile systems.

"North Korea's KN-23 and KN-24 missiles are no better at evading detection by long-range radars than their Scud-type counterparts," Mr Michael Elleman, non-proliferation director at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, wrote on the website.

He was referring to Pyongyang's short-range ballistic missiles being intercepted by and Seoul's anti-missile shield layered with the Patriot and Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) systems.

Seoul maintains a missile defence network in which the Patriot is used to intercept missiles flying at low altitudes and the Thaad takes down ones at high altitudes. The Thaad has much longer-range radars than the Patriot.

The short-range missiles, flying at low altitudes, are launched outside the range where the Patriot identifies incoming fire, but the Thaad radar can cue the Patriot to scan where the threat is suspected to appear in the sky so hostile fire is thwarted, according to Mr Elleman.

However, the KN-23 and KN-24 missiles can manoeuvre throughout their entire trajectory, potentially impacting the interception process, he added.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 05, 2020, with the headline North Korea seen moving intercontinental ballistic missile: Seoul official. Subscribe