North Korea accused of testing ICBM system and restoring nuclear test site

Seoul / Washington — North Korea appears to be using the largest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) system to date in its last two launches to restore several tunnels at a closed nuclear test site, Said US and South Korean officials on Friday.

The report is up-to-date, suggesting that the country may quickly track threats to resume testing long-range ICBMs or nuclear weapons for the first time since 2017.

The heightened tensions in North Korea will occur on Wednesday when South Korea elects a new conservative president.

Yun Suk-yul said he might need a preemptive strike to counter the imminent attack by North Korea and bought a US THAAD interceptor while accepting to resume stagnant denuclearization negotiations. I vowed to do it.

North Korea and the wealthy and democratic South are still technically at war, as the 1950-53 conflict ended with a ceasefire rather than a peace treaty.

South Korean troops said on Friday that they had detected unspecified activities to repair several tunnels at Punggye-ri, the only known nuclear test site in North Korea. The tunnel was destroyed by an explosive when it was closed in 2018.

Analysts say the speed at which the site can be used again is unknown, as there are few details about the extent of the dismantling. It is also unclear whether this activity is associated with a number of recently reported small natural earthquakes in the region.

What Washington called “a serious escalation requiring a unified global response,” according to U.S. and South Korean officials, North Korea has a huge new launch on February 27 and March 5. An ICBM system was used. Seoul issued strong criticism and urged Pyongyang to immediately stop its tension-raising actions.

“The purpose of these tests, which did not show the range of the ICBM, is likely to evaluate this new system before conducting the test at full range, which may be disguised as a space launch in the future.” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.

North Korea did not identify the missile used, but said Prime Minister Kim Jong-un had tested parts of a reconnaissance satellite that he said would be launched shortly to monitor military operations by the United States and its allies.

It states that military activities, including nuclear weapons, are sovereign and only for self-defense. It accused the United States and its allies of threatening “hostile policies” such as military exercises and sanctions.

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Prime Minister Yun have said they have agreed to strengthen trilateral relations with the United States to respond to North Korea’s evolving military threat.

Japan is also considering imposing additional sanctions on North Korea and other diplomatic options, Kishida told reporters after a call with South Korean President-elect.

U.S. Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said in a meeting with Japanese and South Korean counterparts on Friday that he would once again condemn the launch of Pyongyang and that Washington would continue its “efforts for diplomacy”, the U.S. Department of State said in a statement. Stated.

Rockets and satellites

Both the United States and South Korea said the missile system known as Mars-17 was unveiled at the military parade in Pyeongtaek in October 2020 and reappeared at the defense exhibition in October 2021.

Analysts said the test probably used only one stage of the giant Mars 17 and adjusted fuel usage to fly at lower altitudes.

The intelligence activity announced by the United States and South Korea at the same time took place when North Korean national media reported on Friday that Kim had inspected the Higashikurari launch site.

The facility will be used to put satellites into orbit and will also include a variety of missile components, including rocket engines and space rockets, which South Korean and US officials say require similar technology to those used in ICBMs. Used to test.

North Korea “historically used launches into space to hide attempts to advance the ICBM program,” US officials told reporters.

North Korea’s KCNA news agency will inspect the facility at Higashikurasato Station and modernize the facility to confirm that “various rockets can be launched to carry multipurpose satellites, including military reconnaissance satellites.” And ordered expansion.