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Inside the Ring: New North Korea ICBM

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Former Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld (above) will appear at a campaign fundraiser for an Iraq War veteran, Ilario Pantano (right), on April 16 at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington. Mr. Pantano, a Republican, is seeking a rematch against Rep. Mike McIntyre, an eight-term Democratic incumbent, in North Carolina’s 7th Congressional District. The fundraiser is sponsored by the Afghanistan and Iraq Veterans for Congress. (Associated Press)

Details of a new North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) surfaced this week with a report from Asia that U.S. spy agencies spotted what appears to be a larger long-range missile than the one now being readied for launch in the next two weeks.

South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper quoted government sources as saying the new missile was seen at a missile-development center in Pyongyang, but noted that it is not clear if the missile is a functional system or a mockup.

The April 3 report said the new missile is about 130 feet long, compared to the estimated 100-foot-long Taepodong-2 missile photographed recently on a launchpad.

Asked about the new missile, Pentagon spokesman George Little on Tuesday did not directly comment.

“I would just merely say that this is something we’re working with our partners on,” he said.

Recent U.S. intelligence reports mentioned in Congress have said North Korea is developing a new road-mobile ICBM that can reach targets in the United States.

A CIA report to Congress made public recently stated that “North Korea continues to develop short-range and longer-range ballistic missiles.”

The new road-mobile missile was first reported in this space in December and confirmed March 2 by Adm. Robert F. Willard, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command.

“There is development within North Korea of a road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile system that we’ve observed,” he said last month.

The mobile missile is “advertised to be significant in terms of its range capability,” Adm. Willard added.

The missile is more difficult to counter because mobile missiles can be hidden in caves and are set up more easily and fired more rapidly than North Korea’s less-sophisticated liquid-fueled missiles, like the Taepodong-2.

On Pyongyang’s upcoming missile test, Mr. Little, the Pentagon spokesman, declined to outline the specific steps the U.S. military is taking in preparation for launch expected between April 12 and April 16.

North Korea claims the launch is designed to put a satellite into orbit and has invited countries in the region to observe.

The United States says any missile test or space launch would violate U.N. resolutions barring missile tests and development.

“We, along with our partners in the region, are monitoring developments very closely, and that’s where I’ll leave it,” Mr. Little said.

Other defense officials said the military has activated its global missile-defense system that includes ships in the region; space-, sea- and land-based radar and sensors; and 30 ground-based interceptors based in Alaska and California.

CHINA POWER STRUGGLE

China’s internal Communist Party power struggle is continuing after the ouster last month of Bo Xilai, a party leader in Chongqing.

Zhou Yongkang, China’s most senior party security enforcer and one-time ally of Mr. Bo’s, said during a training session for security officials in Beijing last week that all must closely follow Beijing’s party line, according to reports from the region.

His order came as China arrested about 1,000 people for spreading Internet rumors that a military coup was afoot as part of the power struggle between leftist forces, including Mr. Bo, and more reform-oriented communists. China also banned comments on several Internet sites.

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About the Author

Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.

He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.

Mr. ...

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