North Korea last week chose a night launch for its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile to date, to illustrate its ability to make a sneak attack. Problem is, the U.S. knew about it ahead of time.
U.S. military intelligence detected preparations for the missile event at least 72 hours before the launch on November 29, according to The Diplomat . A U.S. government source said officials observed North Koreans setting up the launch pad for the Hwasong-15 missile firing table three hours before the launch, and saw the missile being erected an hour later.
With its network of spy plans, satellites and drones hovering over North Korea, the US demonstrated it was watching the 3 a.m. launch that North Korean state-run news agency KCNA claimed showed "the capability of making surprise launch of ICBM in any region and place any time."
Unlike earler missile tests, for which observation stands were constructed for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, there was a mobile trailer for him for last week's launch, suggesting the country tried to make the event more difficult to detect.
North Korea also broadened the range of its test sites this year. The site near Pyongsong where the Hwasong-15 was fired had been used before.
The U.S. was not the only country with early knowledge of the launch.
Japanese government officials had North Korea's activity on their radar, but decided to release the information to the public for fear of it. Tokyo's relationship with allies. Japan depends heavily on the U.S. and South Korea for intelligence on North Korea
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that officials were aware of Pyongyang's missile launchings earlier in the day and that the country's crisis management system had no problems.
While the missile was still airborne, Japan's chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, told news outlets that it is "expected to land within our exclusive economic zone," The Asahi Shimbun reported.
Tensions between North Korea and the US have heightened since the launch, with the U.S. carrying out large-scale, joint military drills with South Korea near the Korean Peninsula. Pyongyang called the largest joint drill ever conducted by the two countries, involving 230 aircraft through Friday, to "grave provocation" and warned that the region is on the "brink" of nuclear warfare.