U.S. intelligence agencies have discovered North Korea is moving mobile rocket launchers -- some with a new generation of rocket -- around the country, leading to worries that Kim, despite publicly talking about improving the country's economy, may be accelerating its ability to attack U.S. allies or U.S. forces, The New York Times reported Friday.
The new mobile intermediate-range missile, called the KN-08, hasn't been deployed and may not be ready for some time, U.S. officials said.
"Who the hell knows what they're going to do from day to day?" Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said while in Italy for a NATO meeting. "And right now, you know, North Korea just fired a missile. It's an intercontinental ballistic missile, for God's sakes. That means they have the capability to strike the United States."
After his comments, Pentagon officials said Panetta did not mean to imply North Korea could strike the continental United States, although intelligence and military assessments have said that Hawaii is within range.
Intelligence officials said they aren't sure what North Korea intends to do with the KN-08. Officials knowledgeable about the country's missile technology told the Times the KN-08's range is capable of striking South Korea, Japan and parts of Southeast Asia but its accuracy is uncertain.
The Times said there wasn't any indication that the KN-08 is fitted with a nuclear warhead.
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