North Korea plans to launch another intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), according to the South Korean Defense Ministry.
After North Korea detonated a test nuclear bomb on Sunday, Sept. 3, it is now preparing for an ICBM test to demonstrate its capability to strike the United States with a nuclear bomb, said Chang Kyung-soo, an official with South Korea’s Defense Ministry, to the South’s lawmakers on Monday in Seoul, The Associated Press reported.
He didn’t specify when the North plans to launch the next missile test nor what evidence the ministry has to base this assessment on.
Chang also said the Sunday nuclear explosion appeared to carry the strength of 50 kilotons, much more than the previous five tests that were believed to range from 1 to 20 kilotons.
The North has been testing missiles at an increased rate this year, prompting denunciations from around the world and warnings of military intervention from the South and the United States.
South Korea conducted a live-fire drill on Monday with fighter jets and rockets launching into the Sea of Japan, simulating an attack on the North’s main nuclear test site.
The South also stated that the U.S. military will soon install four of its missile defense systems (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system or THAAD) in the country, adding to the current two.
Japan also wants to boost its missile defense, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Monday.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis responded to the North’s nuclear test on Sunday by saying threats to the United States and its allies “will be met with a massive military response.”
He said the United States is “not looking to the total annihilation” of North Korea, but added “we have many options to do so.”
President Donald Trump called the North’s behavior hostile and dangerous and criticized China for failing to contain it.
“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,” he tweeted on Sunday.
Trump also called out South Korea for its long-standing policy of engagement with the North.
“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!” he tweeted.
The views of the South’s security officials have been shifting toward stronger military options, said South Korea’s Defense Minister Song Young-moo, according to The Straits Times. He told Parliament that “views converged on strengthening the military standoff” during Sunday’s national security meeting.
North Korea stated its Sunday test was a hydrogen bomb, a claim hard to confirm. The strength of the explosion, however, gives the claim more credence. The regime also claims to have a nuclear bomb small enough to fit on the tip of its ICBMs.
Based on commercial satellite images, the North Korean nuclear testing site has been ready to conduct the test on short notice since April, according to 38 North, a website providing analysis of North Korean affairs run by the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
The website estimates North Korea now has the capability to strike the U.S. West Coast with a nuclear weapon.