- Satellites have identified the missile at a government base
- Experts say it has a range of 6,200 miles
By Ian Garland
PUBLISHED: 11:43 EST, 3 April 2012 | UPDATED: 11:43 EST, 3 April 2012
North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is preparing to unveil a missile capable of striking mainland U.S., according to government sources in neighbouring South Korea.
The missile has been spotted by reconnaissance satellites on a government base near the North Korean capital Pyongyang.
Experts who have analysed footage of the missile say it is 130 feet long and equipped with boosters that would give it a range of 6,200 miles.
Pyongyang is less than 6,000 miles from the coast of California.
According to South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper, experts are unable to confirm if the missile is functional, or a very realistic fake.
But the discovery will concern neighbouring countries, already alarmed by Kim Jong-un’s plans to launch a rocket in mid April.
Sources believe the Unha-3 rocket is being prepared for launch at the Tongchang-ri aerospace facility in the far north-west of the country.
The launch date, thought to be sometime between April 12 and 16, will coincide with the 100th anniversary of the birth of North Korean founder Kim Il-Sung.
North Korea insists the aim of the rocket launch is to send a satellite into orbit.
But Japan, the U.S. and other countries claim it is also seeking to test the capabilities of its long-range missiles, in violation of international agreements.
Japan’s government last week threatened to shoot the North Korean rocket out of the sky if it strays into Japanese airspace.
A statement from the Defence Ministry said Japan would send destroyers equipped with Aegis missile defence systems to the Pacific and East China Sea and deploy mobile Patriot missile launchers to islands in Okinawa.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura urged people to stay calm, saying the military is preparing ‘just in case’.