North Korea recently deployed a new type of medium-range ballistic missile capable of reaching Australia and the U.S. territory of Guam, South Korea's Defense Ministry said Monday.
The report comes amid speculation that the isolated regime is also preparing to test-fire another, long-range missile able to hit Alaska.
The new intermediate-range ballistic missile can travel at least 1,800 miles (3,000 kilometers), which would put the Pacific island of Guam, the northern tip of Australia and much of Russia and India within striking distance, the ministry said in a report.
It did not offer any other details on the new missile, including exactly when or how many missiles have been deployed and where their launching grounds are.
The new missile is believed to be the same type displayed at a military parade in North Korea in 2007. The communist nation has been developing the missile since the late 1990s, according to a defense assessment on North Korea issued by the South every two years.
Pyongyang is also believed to be preparing to test-fire a version of its longest-range ballistic missile, the Taepodong-2, which is capable of reaching Alaska. Media reports say the missile being readied for launch could be an advanced version of the Taepodong-2 that could reach even farther and strike the U.S. west coast.
North Korea's missile program is a major security concern for the region, along with its nuclear weapons development.
The country test-launched a Taepodong-2 missile in 2006, but the rocket plunged into the ocean shortly after liftoff.
That test alarmed the world and gave new energy to the stop-and-start diplomacy over North Korea's nuclear program, though Pyongyang is not yet believed to have mastered the miniaturization technology required to put a nuclear warhead on a missile.
North Korea has also shorter-range Scud and Nodong missiles capable of hitting neighboring South Korea or Japan.
South Korea is the most likely target of Scuds, which have a range of up to 310 miles (500 kilometers), while Japan is the likely focus for Nodongs. The North is believed to have more than 1,000 Nodong and Scud missiles in its arsenal.
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