US plans first test of ICBM intercept, with NKorea on mind

The US military is planning a missile defence test next week which for the first time will target an intercontinental-range missile.

SEOUL, South Korea South Korea will allow a civic group to contact North Korea over help in fighting malaria, the first government approval on cross-border civilian exchanges since North Korea's fourth nuclear test in January 2016, officials said Friday.

The Defence Intelligence Agency chief has said it is "inevitable" that a nuclear weapon launched from North Korea would hit the USA mainland.

Some outside the administration have been less sanguine about China's willingness to work with the USA on North Korea, while Beijing officials say their influence with Pyongyang has been exaggerated.

US officials said that the test had been planned well in advance and was not in reaction to any specific event.

The target will be a custom-made missile meant to simulate an ICBM, meaning it will fly faster than missiles used in previous intercept tests, according to Christopher Johnson, spokesman for the Missile Defense Agency.

The system has carried out successful intercepts in nine out of 17 attempts dating back to 1999. The most recent test was in June 2014. A year ago a science advocacy group said the system has no proven capability to protect the United States.

Unauthorized contacts with North Koreans or visits to the North are punishable by jail terms in the South.

Trump's fiscal 2018 budget request, released Tuesday, includes $7.9 billion for missile defense, including $821 million for more interceptors. Officially known as the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, the Pentagon likens it to hitting a bullet with a bullet. He headed the Pentagon's office of operational test and evaluation from 1994 to 2001 and has closely studied the missile defense system.

While China believes sanctions against North Korea "don't work overnight", Thornton said there were no indications that Beijing had gone cold on potentially implementing more of them against Pyongyang.

It has been in place since 2004, but it has never been used in combat or fully tested.

The U.S. already has 36 interceptors, with four at Vandenberg Air Force Base along the California coast in Santa Barbara County and the rest at Alaska's Fort Greely. Other elements of that effort include the Patriot created to shoot down short-range ballistic missiles and the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, which the USA has installed in South Korea as defense against medium-range North Korean missiles.

Newsweek says Hawaii is exploring a new missile defense initiative as well as "reviewing existing procedures for mass casualty and fatality management".

Koryo, which claims to be the largest operator of tours dedicated to non-Chinese tourists, says it takes around 2,000 travelers from other countries to North Korea every year, only 20% of whom are American.

  • Jon Douglas