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N. Korea launches new ICBM unit: sources

2016/02/14 10:18

SEOUL, Feb. 14 (Yonhap) -- North Korea has formed a new military unit to deploy a road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), multiple South Korean government sources said Sunday.

They said the KN-08 Brigade, designated after the ICBM of the same name, is a subordinate unit of the Strategic Forces, which oversees all missile units in the North. Sources said it indicates North Korea has inched closer to fielding the road-mobile ICBM.

Last week, U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said North Korea "has already taken initial steps toward fielding this (KN-08) system, although the system has not been flight-tested." Clapper also said Pyongyang was committed to developing "a long-range, nuclear-armed missile that is capable of posing a direct threat" to the United States.

The KN-08 was first unveiled in a military parade in April 2012 celebrating the 100th birthday of Kim Il-sung, the North's founder.

Strategic Forces now commands four strategic and tactical missile units. With North Korea apparently bolstering its missile programs, the commander of the Strategic Forces, Kim Rak-kyom, was promoted to the rank of four-star general late last year.

The KN-08 is believed to have a range of at least 10,000 kilometers. In its annual report to Congress, the Pentagon said Friday if the KN-08 is properly designed and developed, it could be difficult to track because of its mobility.

Elsewhere in its arsenal, North Korea is said to have produced more than 300 Nodong Missiles with a range of 1,200 kilometers, and about 30 Musudan missiles that can travel some 3,000 km. They are said to be capable of reaching the U.S. military bases in Japan and in the Pacific island of Guam, a U.S. territory.