U.S. officials are warning of a potential space launch coming from North Korea in the near future, citing intelligence indicating increased activity at a known launch site. The Japanese military has reportedly been put on high alert in response.
Intelligence reports ostensibly show rocket propellant and various other elements being prepared for a launch at the Sohae launch facility that could come within two weeks. The preparations come just weeks after North Korea engaged in its fourth nuclear test earlier this month. The U.N. and the U.S. congress have both promised to put forward new sanctions against North Korea in response to the test.
“Our concern though is … it’s the same technology to develop ICBMs [inter-continental ballistic missiles],” an official said to Reuters Thursday.
In response to Thursday’s warnings, Japan’s military has been put on high alert.
“Increased activity at North Korea’s missile site suggests that there may be a launch in the next few weeks,” an anonymous Japanese official told Reuters. Another Reuters source claims that Gen Nakatani has ordered Japanese navy missile cruisers to be on the ready to shoot down any missiles headed toward Japan, however, Nakatani refused to corroborate the claim during a recent press conference, saying “we will take steps to respond, but I will refrain from revealing specific measures given the nature of the situation.”
North Korea is believed to have a diverse missile arsenal. According to Matt Kroenig, a nuclear security expert and professor at Georgetown University, “North Korea now has around 30 nuclear warheads.” It’s longest range missile, the Taepodong-2 is believed to have a range of just under 3,800 miles, allowing North Korea to target areas as far as Alaska.
In addition to traditional ballistic missiles, it appears that North Korea has been pursuing a submarine-launched ballistic missile capability. The reclusive nation claims to have tested several SLBMs in 2015, however, arms experts believe many of these tests were fake.
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