US intelligence shows North Korean preparations for a possible missile test

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CNN has learned that US intelligence indicates that North Korea is making preparations for another intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) or intermediate range missile test.

Two administration officials familiar with the latest intelligence confirm there are indicators of test preparations that could lead to a potential launch in about two weeks. US satellites have detected new imagery and satellite-based radar emissions indicating North Korea may be testing components and missile control facilities for another ICBM or intermediate launch, officials say.

The US is watching in particular for further testing of North Korean radars and communications that could be used in a launch. The next test launch would be the first since North Korea successfully launched an ICBM on July 4.

At the same time, officials say that North Korea is continuing to test components to launch a missile from a submarine but the US intelligence assessment is that program remains in early stages.

This latest intelligence about a potential second ICBM test comes as the second highest ranking US military officer has warned Congress that North Korea’s deception techniques to mask their missile launches have grown in sophistication.

“I am reasonably confident in the ability of our intelligence community to monitor the testing but not the deployment of these missile systems. Kim Jong Un and his forces are very good at camouflage concealment and deception” General Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate armed services committee on Tuesday.

Selva gave the strongest public indication so far that the US believes the current North Korean ICBM still has limitations, saying that Pyongyang has yet to demonstrate the “capacity to strike the United States with any degree of accuracy or reasonable confidence of success.”

Selva said North Korean guidance and control systems for a long range missile still would have to be improved before a missile could actually strike the US.

When asked about the possibility of a preemptive US military strike, Selva said, “I think we have to entertain that potential option. That would be a policy choice by the President of the United States to execute or not execute that option.”

But Defense Secretary James Mattis has long warned against letting the North Korean situation get to the point of a US military strike and has strongly and publicly advocated for a diplomatic solution led by the State Department.

Selva, who is deeply involved in the US nuclear weapons and missile defense programs, noted a parallel line of effort is underway to “provide for the defense of the United States with a suitable ballistic missile defense system that can handle the low volume at this point of missiles that he (Kim Jong Un) might be able to deploy that could strike us here across all of US territory, Alaska, Hawaii and the lower 48.”