North Korea’s military is taking steps to field a road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile that could threaten the U.S., the head of American forces in the Pacific said today.
While North Korean leader Kim Jong Un hasn’t yet deployed such a missile, “he’s showing us the signs that he’s trying to get there,” said Admiral Samuel Locklear, who offered new insight into the steps the isolated nation is taking to field its KN-08 missile.
Locklear discussed North Korean developments in a wide-ranging Bloomberg Government interview that included the shift of U.S. military assets toward the Asia-Pacific region, relations with Vietnam, the search for the missing Malaysian airliner and China’s military modernization.
The missile, which isn’t operational yet and is designed to be transported on roads, threatens to change relations between the U.S. and a nation once feared primarily for its conventional military and fixed long-range intercontinental missiles such as the Taepo-Dong-2, Locklear said.
Locating mobile missiles is more difficult than keeping an eye on fixed launching sites and requires constant surveillance and efforts to distinguish real weapons from mock-ups, he said.
“Road-mobile systems” decrease the “amount of time you have to deal with it, particularly if you want to deal with it before they launch it,” Locklear said, referring to the potential for a preemptive strike on a known missile site. Asked how close North Korea is to fielding an operational road-mobile missile, Locklear said it’s “hard for us to get an exact assessment of that.”