By Jamie Crawford
North Korea appears to be moving ahead with efforts to improve and possibly modernize its long-range rocket capabilities, according to an analysis of new satellite photos.
Engine tests for the North's long-range rocket program appear to have taken place in late March or early April of this year, analysts at 38 North, a blog run by the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, have concluded.
"They conducted at least one test of an engine for a long-range rocket, and there may have been more," says Joel Wit, a former State Department official who manages the blog and studied the images.
Over the course of several weeks, the images show the appearance of possible fuel tanks, burned vegetation and a seven-car train parked near the rocket assembly building that might have been used to transport equipment and propellants to the test site.
From Barbara Starr and Chris Lawrence
The Pentagon’s intelligence arm has assessed with “moderate confidence” that North Korea has the ability to deliver a nuclear weapon by ballistic missile though the reliability is believed to be “low.” The assessment by the Defense Intelligence Agency was revealed during a Congressional hearing on Thursday.
"DIA assess with moderate confidence the North currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles, however, the reliability will be low,” the agency concludes, according to an unclassified version of the report read out by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) during a House Armed Services Hearing.
Pentagon spokesman George Little refused to comment on the assessment in an interview broadcast on ‘The Lead with Jake Tapper,’ saying that while the conclusion was unclassified, “the underlying content is definitely classified.”
By Barbara Starr
Intelligence suggests that North Korea may be planning "multiple missile launches" in the coming days beyond two Musudan mobile missiles it has placed along its east coast, Pentagon officials told CNN on Wednesday.
The officials did not have specifics on the numbers of other missiles and launchers.
One official said the North Koreans are military "masters of deception" and may have planned all along to focus the world's attention on the Musudans while they plan multiple launches of other missiles, which is a tactic they have used in the past.
But the United States is less troubled about the movement of the other missile launchers, a second Pentagon official told CNN.
"We've been seeing some launchers moving around. These are smaller and don't cause us as much concerns," that official said. "We think these movements are within seasonal norms for their exercises."
But he didn't discount the possibility that they might launch some of those, as they often do.
By Barbara Starr
The Obama administration believes North Korea has most likely completed launch preparations and could test fire mobile ballistic missiles at any time based on the most recent intelligence, a U.S. official said.
A test launch of one or both of missiles thought to be loaded into mobile launchers could happen without North Korea issuing a standard warning to commercial aviation and maritime shipping, according to the official.
The official declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the information.
He cautioned most of the information comes from satellite imagery, so it's impossible to reach a definitive conclusion because the United States has no means to gather information on the ground.
As tensions mount on the Korean Peninsula, Wolf Blitzer explains what's behind the threats and what's at stake in a special edition of "The Situation Room," Thursday at 6 p.m. ET on CNN.
Are you from South or North Korea? Concerned about the latest crisis? Send us your thoughts.
US intelligence has seen missile and launch components move to the east coast of North Korea in the “last few days”, a US official with direct knowledge of the information tells CNN’s Barbara Starr.
The movements are consistent with that of a Musudan missile, the official said. The Musadan missile has a 2,500 mile range and can threaten South Korea, Japan, Guam and southeast Asia.
The US is looking for a hidden North Korean east coast launch site or mobile launchers, the official said, which are of concern because a launch from the east coast would go over Japan.
The official said it is believed such a missile launch would be a “test” launch rather than a targeted strike. That is because it appears the North Koreans have only moved components so far. The U.S. is waiting to see if North Korea issues a notice to its airmen and mariners to stay out of the region.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel quoted President Dwight D. Eisenhower Wednesday, telling rising military officers "the wise and prudent administration of the vast resources required by defense calls for extraordinary skill."
In his first major policy speech since taking over the Pentagon, Hagel focused on the budget problems facing the Defense Department and the rest of the government.
"A combination of fiscal pressures and a gridlocked political process has led to far more abrupt and deeper reductions than were planned for or expected. Now DoD is grappling with the serious and immediate challenge of sequester - which is forcing us to take as much as a $41 billion cut in this current fiscal year," Hagel said at the National Defense University at Fort McNair.
By Jill Dougherty and Pam Benson
More than a month after North Korea tested a nuclear device, the United States is unable to pinpoint whether the regime was able to use uranium to fuel the explosion, a capability that would represent a significantly enhanced nuclear program.
The lack of clarity comes as North Korea ratchets up its bellicose rhetoric each day.
New video broadcast on North Korean television showed the nation's leader, Kim Jong Un, addressing his troops along the border on Monday and issuing a blood-chilling threat, "Throw all enemies into the caldron, break their waists and crack their windpipes." It was the same location he and his late father visited in November 2010, just two days before the North shelled an island, killing four South Koreans.
The bellicose comments have been intensifying over the past months, increasing worry about Kim's unpredictability.
A defiant North Korea is threatening both the United States and South Korea in response to the United Nations decision to invoke additional sanctions on Pyongyang for it's rocket launch late last year.
Calling the U.S. a sworn enemy of North Korea, the government of Kim Jong Un vowed to launch more missiles and conduct a nuclear test.
Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr looks into how dangerous the North's nuclear capability really is.
By Pam Benson
Satellite imagery of a North Korean nuclear test site identifies what could be key installations that would likely play a prominent role if Kim Jong Un orders a test, which the government threatened to do on Thursday.
The analysis of the Pung-gye-Ri Nuclear Test site by U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University’s 38 North blog shows recently completed structures essential to an underground nuclear weapons test.
One is believed to be a command and control bunker. Another photo shows what appears to be a radio relay system that zigzags through a valley, which the 38North analysts believe could be used as part of a communications system linking the bunker to the North Korean leadership in Pyongyang.
"Located about 150 meters (164 yards) north of the test tunnel entrance, the bunker, used only when a test is about to be conducted, would contain equipment for controlling the nuclear device, managing instruments for gathering test data and communicating with authorities in Pyongyang," the report stated. "The bunker would also provide shelter for all personnel in the area."
By K.J. Kwon and Jethro Mullen
North Korea said Thursday that it plans to carry out a new nuclear test and further long-range rocket launches, all of which it said are a part of a new phase of confrontation with the United States.
The North's National Defense Commission said the moves would feed into an "upcoming all-out action" that would target the United States, "the sworn enemy of the Korean people."
Carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency, the defense commission statement followed a United Nations Security Council resolution on Tuesday that condemned North Korea's recent rocket launch and expanded existing sanctions.FULL STORY