After firing missiles at a pace of about two or three a month since April, North Korean missile launches paused in September, after Pyongyang fired a rocket that passed over Japan’s northern Hokkaido island.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, citing a South Korean government source, also reported that intelligence officials of the United States, South Korea and Japan had recently detected signs of a possible missile launch and have been on higher alert.
Asked about the media reports, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Robert Manning told reporters the United States continued to watch North Korea very closely. “This is a diplomatically led effort at this point, supported by military options,” he said. “The Republic of Korea and US alliance remains strong and capable of countering any North Korean provocations or attacks.”
Two US government sources familiar with official assessments of North Korean capabilities and activities said that while they were not immediately familiar with recent intelligence suggesting that North Korea was preparing to launch a new missile test, the US government would not be surprised if such a test were to take place in the very near future.
Other US intelligence officials noted North Korea has previously sent deliberately misleading signs of preparations for missile and nuclear tests, in part to mask real preparations, and in part to test US and allied intelligence on its activities.