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North Korea Developing Mobile ICBM, U.S. Pacific Command Chief Says

North Korea is advancing work on a ballistic missile capable of striking the United States, the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific told lawmakers last week (see GSN, Jan. 3).

Navy Adm. Robert Willard said during a Friday hearing of the House Armed Services Committee that "there is development within North Korea of a road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile system that we've observed," the Washington Times reported.

"We have not observed it being tested yet, to my knowledge," the head of U.S. Pacific Command said. "We are watching the development very closely."

The road-transportable ICBM would complement North Korea's Taepodong 2 long-range ballistic missile, which was launched in 2006 and 2009 trials.

Intelligence agencies in the United States are worried Pyongyang could seek to export the new weapon to Iran, a previous buyer of midrange North Korean Nodong missiles, the Times reported.

The developmental ICBM is "advertised to be significant in terms of its range capability," Willard said.

If and when the missile's capabilities are verified, "there will be a decision made with regard to how we posture to deal with what could be something less predictable than Taepodong 2 or some of the other ballistic missile capabilities that are a little more easy to observe," the admiral said.

A road-mobile missile can more easily be relocated than silo-based systems, making it more difficult to track and attack.

The new weapon could require the United States to ramp up its antimissile activities, Willard said. "I think that's one of the posture options that will have to be considered" (Bill Gertz, Washington Times, March 7).

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