South Korea’s Ministry of Defense has confirmed that North Korea is probably preparing for another launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
The news comes just one day after North Korea successfully detonated a hydrogen bomb that resulted in a 6.3 magnitude earthquake in the Punggye-Ri region where the North regularly tests its missile capabilities.
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, South Korea’s Major General Jang Kyung-soo said that the country’s ministry of defense detected mounting signs of activity around North Korea’s missile testing site, suggesting that Pyongyang was preparing for another ICBM launch.
While Maj. Gen. Kyung-soo didn’t reveal details about the nature of the activity or indicate when the test could take place, experts believe that North Korea may be planning the launch to coincide with the country’s anniversary of its establishment in 1948.
South Korea and the United States are currently engaged in discussions about appropriate military actions to respond to North Korea’s provocations. The Journal reports that the two allies are exploring the idea of deploying a U.S. aircraft carrier and a contingent of stealth bombers in the South, displaying a show of military strength in the hope of intimidating Pyongyang.
High-ranking South Korean officials have also hinted at the deployment of nuclear weapons as part of the “strategic assets” that will be moving into the Korean Peninsula in the next few days.
Although smaller than the initial estimate of roughly 100 kilotons, Maj. Gen. Kyung-soo confirmed that North Korea’s hydrogen bomb test on Sunday yielded a potentially devastating 50 kiloton explosion.
Despite being lower than independent experts have claimed, the 50 kiloton yield is a significant improvement on the 10 kiloton explosion North Korea achieved during the same time last year.
Early Monday morning, South Korea’s department of defense began conducting missile launch drills aimed at testing their ability to counter incoming missiles in surface-to-surface and air-to-ground scenarios.
Ever since North Korea’s threats to attack the U.S. island territory of Guam earlier this year, South Korean, American and Japanese military forces have been ramping up an armed presence in the Pacific ocean. The increased activity also follows a recent North Korean missile that flew over Japan and caused the island nation to initiate emergency procedures to protect civilians.
The United States, in particular, has a massive naval footprint in southeast Asia and the Pacific.
In the video below, the Wall Street Journal’s Gerald F. Seib explains what the heavier presence means for the current deadlock between Washington and Pyongyang.
On Sunday an artificial 6.3 magnitude earthquake near North Korea was detected by Japanese scientists, confirming Pyongyang’s assertions that it had conducted a successful test of a hydrogen bomb capable of reaching the United States mainland.
President Donald Trump later took to Twitter to strongly condemn North Korea’s hostility. “Words and actions continue to be very hostile and dangerous to the United States,” the president tweeted.
North Korea has conducted a major Nuclear Test. Their words and actions continue to be very hostile and dangerous to the United States.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 3, 2017
..North Korea is a rogue nation which has become a great threat and embarrassment to China, which is trying to help but with little success.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 3, 2017
South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 3, 2017
Following an analysis of the geological data, experts confirmed that North Korea’s hydrogen bomb is a “city buster,” as reported by the Washington Post.
According to NORSAR – the internationally recognized, independent, Norwegian National Data Centre (NDC) – the latest detonation is likely 10 times stronger than any nuclear explosives North Korea has tested before.
[Featured Image by South Korea Defense Ministry/AP Images]