North Korea About to Launch Ballistic Missile

A North Korean Hwasong-12 IRBM being tested.
A North Korean Hwasong-12 IRBM being tested.

North Korea is preparing for another intercontinental ballistic missile—ICBM—launch, according to both US and South Korean intelligence.

The South Korean Dong-A Ilbo reported on the news citing a government source. The deployment of transporter erector launcher (TEL) were spotted in three to four different regions in North Korea.

“South Korean and American intelligence agencies are gearing up for North Korea’s another provocation as the transport and deployment of transporter-erecter-launcher (TEL) has been spotted in three to four regions in North Korea,” the media reported.

A U.S. satellite captured imagery of North Korean ICBM mounted on TEL being moved out of a hangar near Pyongyang and North Pyongan Province. Both the U.S. and South Korea believe that Pyongyang could launch either a Hwansong-14 ICBM or a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM).

North Korea's arsenal. Courtesy of Missile Threat, a CSIS project.
North Korea’s ballistic missile arsenal. Courtesy of Missile Defense Project, a CSIS project.

The distance between North Korea and Guam is approximately 3,400 km making it possible to launch a Hwasong-12, capable of reaching targets up to 4,500 km.

North Korea's Hwasong-12 IRBM can reach targets at up to 4,500 km.
North Korea’s Hwasong-12 IRBM can reach targets at up to 4,500 km.

With the recent threats made by North Korea to launch a “salvo of missiles” toward the waters near Guam in reprisal to the joint U.S.-South Korea military drills, the deployment of North Korean TEL was predictable. It could also be launched to celebrate the ruling party’s foundation set to happen on 17 Oct 2017.

That said, using the Hwasong-12 IRBM would be North Korea’s best alternative to follow up on those threats. Testing another ICBM would implicate not following up on the threat made against the joint drills. However, with Pyongyang being unpredictable, it could launch various type of missiles to showcase its arsenal of ICBM / IRBM.

“The North may carry out a simultaneous launch of ICBM and IRBM within a few days in protest against the U.S.’s show of military might,” another source said.

Australia pledges support against North Korea

Australia, well within range of North Korean missiles, pledged to keep supporting its allies in deterring Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile ambitions. North Korea responded by threatening Canberra with disastrous consequences if it keeps supporting the U.S.-led military alliance against Pyongyang.

“Should Australia continue to follow the US in imposing military, economic and diplomatic pressure upon the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] despite our repeated warnings, they will not be able to avoid a disaster,” KCNA warned on Saturday quoting a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry.

Julie Bishop, Australia Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Julie Bishop, Australia Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Australia will continue to support its allies but wishes a de-escalation so there is no need for a military option.

“She said Australia is working with other nations to place maximum pressure on North Korea but that “we hope there will be no need for a military option,” Bishop said.

“Ms Bishop said Australia supports what she called “the tough sets of comprehensive sanctions” against North Korea, saying the North “will be deterred from carrying out any further illegal test” and “will be compelled to return to the negotiating table,” the News Corp Australia Network stated in their article.

North Korea has been particularly active in launching missiles since last month. In September, they launched a ballistic missile over Japan and they detonated an hydrogen bomb in its most powerful ever nuclear test.