TOKYO: North Korea, under heavy UN sanctions for its nuclear weapons programme, could be preparing a long-range ballistic missile test, a Japanese newspaper said on yesterday, citing officials who have seen US intelligence analysis.
The report comes just weeks before South Korea’s Dec 19 presidential election in which how to handle North Korea is a major campaign issue. The isolated North has for years tried to influence major events in the South by waging propaganda or armed attacks.
North and South Korea have been technically at war since their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, and regional powers have for years been trying to rein in the North’s nuclear programme.
“The United States has detected moves that are seen as preparation by North Korea for a long-range missile launch, which could take place as early as this month,” the Asahi daily said citing unnamed government officials.
The United States traditionally shares such information with its two allies in the region, South Korea and Japan.
North Korea is believed to be developing a long-range ballistic missile with a range of up to 6,700 km (4,200 miles) aimed at hitting the continental United States but the last two rocket test launches failed.
In April, under its new leader Kim Jong-un, North Korea launched a rocket that flew just a few minutes covering a little over 100 km (60 miles) before crashing into the sea between South Korea and China.
Regional powers trying to stop North’s arms programme believe it is using rocket launches to perfect technology to build a missile arsenal capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the United States.