NORTH KOREA LAUNCH
North Korea’s Foreign Ministry announced last week that plans to conduct a satellite launch in mid-april are “legitimate” and “peaceful.”
U.S. officials, however, say the planned space launch is merely a deception for Pyongyang’s test-firing of what is expected to be a new long-range strategic missile, likely the new hard-to-locate, road-mobile ICBM under development that has set off alarm bells inside the U.S. government and in Congress.
“North Korea’s threat of a missile launch can only be an effort to test, perhaps ahead of deployment, an intercontinental ballistic missile that would have the capability of reaching the United States,” Rep. Michael R. Turner, Ohio Republican and chairman of the House Armed Service subcommittee on strategic forces, said during a full committee hearing Wednesday.
Then-defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said last year that the new missile will pose a direct threat to the United States.
Both South Korea and Japan have said they are deploying land- and sea-based anti-missile systems and could shoot down the rocket if it strays or overflies their territory. South Korea has advanced Patriot PAC-3 missiles, and Japan has the Aegis battle-management system directed SM-3 missile on warships.
The Pentagon also is expected to activate its global ballistic missile system, with interceptors in California and Alaska, for the launch.
Launch preparations were in the advanced “action stage,” the North Korean statement said.
Air Force Gen. C. Robert Kehler, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that budget cuts pose “acceptable” risk levels for U.S. strategic nuclear deterrence against current nuclear-armed enemies.