North Korea May Test ICBM as US, Japan, South Korea Leaders Meet

(Bloomberg) -- North Korea may time the test launch of a missile that can deliver a nuclear warhead to the American mainland to coincide with a Friday summit of the leaders of Japan, South Korea and the US, South Korea’s spy service was cited as saying by a lawmaker.

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Kim Jong Un’s regime is also looking to hold military drills that could include tests of missiles designed to deliver nuclear strikes on Japan and South Korea, National Intelligence Service officials told South Korean members of parliament Thursday, ruling party lawmaker Yoo Sang-bum told reporters.

US President Joe Biden will host Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol at the Camp David presidential retreat in rural Maryland, where the three are expected to discuss ways to enhance their security cooperation and military training to respond to the nuclear and missile threats from Kim’s regime.

Pyongyang has a habit of timing its provocations to coincide with major political meetings, and the summit among the leaders of North Korea’s three top enemies may entice Kim to put on a show of force. Pyongyang test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile just before Yoon met Kishida in Japan in March.

Yoon said in a written interview with Bloomberg the world would never accept North Korea as a nuclear weapons power and opened the door to a possible breakthrough in cooperation on deterrence at the summit.

Movements of vehicles needed to help launch an ICBM were detected in areas including Pyongyang, Yoo said. There are continuous signs of preparations for a launch, including the movement of propellants, he said.

These signs could indicate that North Korea is preparing to launch one of its liquid-fuel ICBMs. Kim and his preteen daughter were on hand in March to see the launch of the Hwasong-17, the state’s largest ICBM that is designed to carry a multiple nuclear warhead payload.

Since then, it has twice tested its solid-fuel Hwasong-18 ICBM. Solid-fuel missiles have the propellants baked into rockets, allowing them to stay hidden from spy satellites, rolled out and fired in a manner of minutes, giving the US less time to prepare for interception.

Read: Kim Jong Un Says ICBM Launch Was to ‘Strike Fear’ in Enemies

Liquid-fuel ICBMs take time to fill with propellant, which makes them vulnerable to attack before being launched.

North Korea may also try to launch a space rocket to deploy a spy satellite in late August or early September around the time it celebrates its foundation day on Sept. 9, Yoo said. Kim’s regime tried on May 31 to put a spy satellite into orbit but the rocket failed a few minutes into flight before crashing in international waters in the Yellow Sea.

North Korea is barred by United Nations Security Council resolutions from conducting ballistic missile tests, but Pyongyang has long claimed it’s entitled to a civilian space program for satellite launches. The US and its partners have warned that technology derived from North Korea’s space program could be used to advance its ballistic missiles.

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