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Inside the Ring: North Korea’s ICBM

Recent congressional testimony confirmed North Korea’s development of a new long-range, road-mobile missile that can reach American shores, increasing the threat of a nuclear attack on the United States.

“There is development within North Korea of a road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile system that we’ve observed,” Adm. Robert F. Willard, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, told the House Armed Services Committee on Friday.

“We have not observed it being tested yet, to my knowledge. We are watching the development very closely.”

The new mobile missile was first reported by The Washington Times on Dec. 5.

The road-mobile ICBM bolsters North Korea’s already-deployed launch-pad-fired Taepodong-2 missile that has been tested.

The new missile is also raising concerns in the U.S. intelligence community that North Korea will sell the missile to Iran, as it has done with past medium-range Nodong missiles.

Adm. Willard said the mobile missile is “advertised to be significant in terms of its range capability.”

The admiral, who retires this month, said once the missile is proven, “there will be a decision made with regard to how we posture to deal with what could be something less predictable than Taepodong-2 or some of the other ballistic missile capabilities that are a little more easy to observe.”

Road-mobile missiles are much harder to detect and counter than static missiles. They are usually solid-fueled, allowing them to be fired much faster than liquid-fueled missiles.

Under questioning from Rep. Michael R. Turner, Ohio Republican, Adm. Willard said the new North Korean mobile ICBM would cause an increase in missile defense efforts.

“I think that’s one of the posture options that will have to be considered, yes,” he said.

On Tuesday, Mr. Turner again raised the new North Korean missile during a hearing on missile defenses.

“A rogue mobile intercontinental ballistic missile would be a profound leap forward in North Korea’s ballistic missile technology,” Mr. Turner asked.

Bradley H. Roberts, deputy assistant defense secretary for missile defense and nuclear policy, acknowledged at a subcommittee hearing that the new missile poses a “direct threat” to the United States.

MATTIS ON AL QAEDA

Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, commander of the U.S. Central Command, on Tuesday confirmed that al Qaeda is making a comeback in Iraq.

Asked during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing if the terrorist group behind the Sept. 11 attacks is recovering in Iraq after being hit hard by U.S. forces, Gen. Mattis said: “Yes, sir. They are. It’s not significant. It won’t threaten the [Iraqi] government. It’ll kill a lot of innocent people.”

The Washington Times first reported Sunday that the terrorist group was mounting a comeback and had carried out more attacks in two months this year than it did in the second half of 2011, when the U.S. military was pulling out.

A U.S. official said the comeback does not mean the group has regained the strength it had in the past.

AIR FORCE CHIEF ON CHINA

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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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