“What we noticed in the past at launch is what we notice now,” the official said. The launch site, which is under satellite surveillance, is located near Pyongyang. The official did not elaborate on the current images, but usually intelligence analysts are looking for signs of scaffolding or other launch equipment, gas stations, vehicles and personnel.
Biden will travel to South Korea on Thursday and hold meetings with South Korean President Yoon Seok-yeol before heading to Japan on Sunday, where he will meet with the leaders of Japan, Australia and India.
North Korea has conducted a number of ballistic missile tests this year, and the US military and intelligence agencies believe that Pyongyang may also be preparing for its first underground nuclear test in nearly five years.
The US now believes that the May 4 North Korean missile launch was a failed ICBM that exploded shortly after launch.
The US also assessed that two ballistic missile tests on February 26 and March 4 involved a new ICBM being developed by North Korea. According to the Pentagon, the missile was originally displayed for the first time at the Korean Workers’ Party parade on October 10, 2020. The test earlier this year was intended as an evaluation and did not attempt to demonstrate the range of an ICBM. The missile range test may take place later.
By releasing these findings in March, the Pentagon stepped up its surveillance in the Yellow Sea and also “upgraded the readiness” of US missile defenses in the region.
CNN reported earlier this month that US military and intelligence agencies believe North Korea may be ready to resume underground nuclear testing.
This assessment concluded that the Kim Jong-un government is preparing the Pungeri nuclear test site and may be ready to test by the end of the month. Signs of the presence of personnel and vehicles at the site have been visible on satellite imagery, but officials do not know if the regime has placed nuclear material in one of the underground tunnels at the site, which the US is closely monitoring.
If North Korea conducts a test, it would be the country’s seventh underground nuclear test and the first since 2017.
Biden’s trip to the region this week is just the latest time a U.S. president has traveled to Asia amid the threat of nuclear testing: Pyongyang was preparing for a test in 2014 when then-President Barack Obama traveled to South Korea, and the country conducted the test shortly after. how Obama and other leaders left Asia in 2016.