By Kim Eun-jung
SEOUL, Nov. 16 (Yonhap) — The South Korean military said Thursday that North Korea could test-fire a new type of intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) following its recent tests of its solid-fuel engine to advance its weapons program.
Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) spokesperson Col. Lee Sung-jun made the assessment, a day after North Korea said it has successfully tested newly developed solid-fuel engines for a new type of IRBM over the past week.
Lee said Pyongyang’s solid-fuel IRBM under development could potentially target U.S. military bases in Japan and Guam, as well as United Nations Command’s rear bases in Japan, which are designed to provide vital logistics support in time of contingencies on the Korean Peninsula.
North Korea “is highly likely to conduct an actual test-firing (of the IRBM) in the future,” Lee said during a regular press briefing.
Lee said the test of the solid-fuel, which is harder to detect due to shorter preparation time, is part of Pyongyang’s pursuit of solid-fuel missiles with varying ranges, in addition to new types of short-range ballistic missiles and the Hwasong-18 intercontinental ballistic missile, which it test-fired in April and July.
North Korea’s missile development “poses a serious threat not only to the Korean Peninsula but also to global peace and stability,” he said.
In light of North Korea’s growing missile and nuclear threats, the JCS official said the South Korean military will shore up its capabilities and strengthen the joint extended deterrence efforts with the U.S.
“Intelligence authorities of South Korea and the U.S. have been coordinating to closely monitor North Korea’s technology development, activities and possibilities of various provocations,” Lee said.