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Signs of N. Korea preparing for missile launch during Biden’s visit to S. Korea

Signs of N. Korea preparing for missile launch during Biden’s visit to S. Korea

Posted May. 19, 2022 08:06,   

Updated May. 19, 2022 08:06


Measures of South Korean Korea and U.S. authorities are growing more urgent with possible alerts of North Korea firing intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) during U.S. President Joe Biden’s visit to South Korea from May 20 to May 22.

According to sources compiled by The Dong-A Ilbo on Wednesday, intelligence agencies at both countries are intensively monitoring signs of missile firing around Pyongyang. “Activities have been observed by satellite since late last week,” said a military source. The U.S. Air Force’s RC-1355 Cobra Balls flying nearly every day to the East Sea was also the reason to track down such activities. It seems that North Korea is preparing to fire Hwasong-15 type ICBM in Sunan, Pyongyang in addition to launches on May 4.

Hwasong-type ICBM should be fired in three to four days after liquid fuel is injected. Leaving the fuel for prolonged periods can erode the interior of the engine due to hyper toxic materials of the fuel and oxidizing agent. North Korea may have injected the fuel already, based on CNN reports that North Korea may launch testing with 48-96 hours. In this case, it is likely that North Korea would fire the missiles exactly targeting President Biden’s day of visit on May 20 or South Korea-U,S. summit on May 21.

“If North Korean provocations take place during the South Korea-U.S. Summit, we need to come up with Plan B so that both heads of state can immediately launch joint defense systems even if it involves revising previously aligned schedules,” said the Presidential office. This implies that if North Korea launches ICBM, both states may cancel all previous plans and issue a warning statement to North Korea from the National Center for Crisis Management located underground of the Presidential Office in Yongsan.

Some experts observe that North Korea may attempt to show brinkmanship by attempting nuclear tests in addition to ICBM provocations. The U.S. Center for Strategic and International Studies issued a report that three new entrances have been built near the shafts of the nuclear testing site near Pungyeri of North Hamgyong Province, based on satellite images taken on Tuesday (local time).

“It is unlikely for nuclear testing to be carried out by this weekend. However, we cannot rule out the possibility of North Korea firing ICBM during the South Korea-US summit and pressing the nuclear button after President Biden leaves South Korea,” said a government source.

Sang-Ho Yun ysh1005@donga.com