May 13, 2016 13:15
North Korea is in the process of deploying mobile ballistic missiles with a maximum range of 12,000 km at three or four frontline bases along its border with China, it emerged Thursday.
U.S. intelligence officials have said a couple of times since last year that the North has taken steps toward the deployment of the KN-08 ballistic missiles without test flights.
The North previously deployed the Musudan mid-range missiles warfare-ready without test flights. They have a range of 3,000 to 4,000 km. But three test launches of the Musudan last month all failed, raising skepticism over the potency of the KN-08 missiles being deployed now.
North Korea has merely conducted several engine combustion tests for the KN-08 at its test site in Tongchang-ri, North Pyongan Province.
South Korean and U.S. officials have reassessed the capability of the KN-08 following the failed tests of the Musudan missile.
Both the KN-08 and the Musudan can be fired from mobile launchers, which makes them difficult to detect and track.
A government source here said signs of KN-08 deployment at the bases have been spotted over the past year or two. The North is apparently deploying both versions of the KN-08 that have been unveiled since 2012.
South Korean and U.S. intelligence believe the KN-08s come in two versions, one measuring 18 m and having a range of 12,000 km and one measuring 17 m with a range of 9,000 km. But the second version can carry heavier payloads and is thought to be more accurate.
The South Korean military believes North Korea has put together a KN-08 brigade with a total of six mobile launch vehicles. All are modified special-purpose trucks smuggled in from China.
There is also intelligence information suggesting that North Korea may have developed its own launch vehicles.
A government official here said, "North Korea appears to be deploying KN-08 missiles that have yet to be tested in order to give the impression that it is capable of launching a nuclear strike against the U.S."
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