North Korea Set to Fire Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile This Week; First ICBM Launch Since 2017

North Korea is all set to launch an Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) system any time, reports have said. This will be Pyongyang's first-ever test of an ICBM system since 2017.

Pyongyang conducted two missile launches over the last two weeks and the Pentagon believes those launches were in preparation for the upcoming ICBM launch.

The missile tests conducted on February 26 and March 4 were related to the development of a reconnaissance satellite, Pyongyang had claimed. But the Pentagon believes the tests were experimental ones ahead of the full-range ICBM launch.

Kim Jong Un
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un Twitter

Washington and Seoul both have found indications that Pyongyang is preparing to conduct an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) system test as early as this week, Yonhap News Agency quoted well-informed sources as saying on Monday.

Keeping Close Tabs on Possibility

"Though we can't say definitively when a missile will be launched, we have been keeping close tabs on the possibility," said a government source in Seoul.

North Korean Missile
Representative image IANS

An official at Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff refused to make "prejudgment" about the next possible missile test. However, the official also underlined that South Korea maintains a "robust" readiness posture to deal with all conditions.

Pyongyang characterized the previous two launches -- in late February and early March -- as "reconnaissance satellite" development tests. Officials in the US and South Korea believe they were involved in the Hwasong-17 ICBM unveiled during a military parade in October 2020.

It is believed that North Korea's upcoming launch will be affected by weather conditions and other variables.

Missile Could be Fired From Sunan airfield

Observers have chalked out possibilities saying if Pyongyang could fire a missile from a transporter erector launcher (TEL) at the Sunan airfield if it goes for the test. The previous two tests of North Korea were also conducted from the Sunan airfield.

north korea missile launch
A rocket is fired during a drill by anti-aircraft units of the Korean People's Army (KPA) in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang November 3, 2015 Reuters

Pyongyang had fired the missile at a high angle from the airfield and engineered it to travel on a trajectory of a medium-range ballistic missile. The missile fired on February 27 flew about 300 kilometers at a top altitude of 620 km, while the one fired on March 5 traveled around 270 km at a top altitude of 560 km, according to Yonhap.

Officials have expressed concerns that Pyongyang could be engaged in more such provocative acts.

Restoring Demolished Nuclear Site

North Korea is also appeared to be involved in a possible restoration of demolished Punggye-ri nuclear test site, said the sources, adding, it could remove South Korean-built facilities at the Mount Kumgang resort.

We urge the North again to immediately stop acts that run counter to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and are of no help to the development of inter-Korean relations, said Lee Jong-joo, spokesperson for Seoul's unification ministry, calling on North Korea to return to a "path of dialogue and cooperation."