The Washington Times Daily - - Nation -

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.

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