U.S. military sends another spy plane near N. Korea amid its ICBM test possibility

SEOUL-- The U.S. military flew another major intelligence-collecting aircraft over the Korean Peninsula on Tuesday, as Seoul and Washington were on the alert for a possible long-range rocket test by North Korea, according to a flight-tracking service.

The RC-135S Cobra Ball spy aircraft, based in Japan, made a sortie around the peninsula, Flightradar24 showed a day after the U.S. sent an RC-135V Rivet Joint reconnaissance plane here apparently in order to monitor North Korean military activities.

The move came amid reports the North might be all set for the test-launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) following back-to-back tests of related systems.

"We are closely tracking and monitoring (North Korean activities)," an official at South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff told reporters on the condition of anonymity and stressed South Korea is maintaining a "firm" defense posture.

The allies, in particular, have been keeping a close eye reportedly on the Sunan airfield and some other sites where the North conducted missile tests.

Earlier in the day, the Voice of America reported that signs have emerged of the North having set up two strips of concrete at the airfield. The Washington-based news outlet cited recent commercial satellite imagery.

The secretive North has a track record of putting a transporter erector launcher (TEL) on a concrete strip to fire a missile in what appears to be a move to enhance the missile's accuracy and prevent the TEL from being damaged, it pointed out.

Last Friday, Seoul and Washington accused Pyongyang of having conducted a new ICBM system test each on Feb. 27 and March 5 ahead of a full-range launch, dismissing the North's claim the twin tests were part of efforts to develop a "reconnaissance satellite."

Source: Yonhap News Agency