North Korea might start flight testing an improved intercontinental ballistic missile “in the near future,” the head of U.S. Northern Command said Tuesday.
“The North Korean regime has also indicated that it is no longer bound by the unilateral nuclear and ICBM testing moratorium announced in 2018, suggesting that Kim Jong Un may begin flight testing an improved ICBM design in the near future,” Air Force Gen. Glen VanHerck told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
North Korea three years ago had promised a unilateral freeze on ICBM tests and nuclear weapons tests.
A Defense official told NBC News that the U.S. is aware of increased vehicular activity at a location where there is a history of missile launches. The official underscored that there is no indication of an imminent launch. The U.S. is continuing to monitor the situation.
A March 12 post from 38 North, a website that offers analysis regarding North Korea, there is commercial satellite imagery showing new activity at the country’s Uranium Enrichment Plant (UEP) Complex. The images show smoke or vapor coming from one building as well as the spread of a yellowish substance in front of the plant. The drying of grain around the complex is common during harvest season, but at this time of year, the nature of the activity is unclear, according to the website.
At a Pentagon briefing later, VanHerck told reporters that North Korea had displayed a new missile in a parade in October, demonstrating the regime possibly had three intercontinental missiles that could threaten the United States.
“In the public parade we saw on the 10th of October, we saw additional capabilities, an additional missile. Now they’re up to three missiles that we assess could strike our homeland,” the general said.
VanHerck said he was confident that the U.S. military could defend against any attack and could deter the regime from launching an attack.
“We always maintain our ability to defend our homeland,” he said, referring to a missile defense system and a new radar system that is undergoing testing.
Citing a combination of ground-based interceptors, ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons, the general said: “I think we have a good posture for deterrence.”
The Biden administration last month sought to initiate talks with North Korea but had received no response to its overtures, the White House said Monday.
North Korean state media reported earlier that the sister of the North Korean leader, Kim Yo Jong, warned the United States over joint military drills underway with South Korea.
"If it wants to sleep in peace for [the] coming four years, it had better refrain from causing a stink at its first step," Kim said in a statement carried by state news agency KCNA.