U.S. spy plane, USNS Lorenzen deployed near North Korea

Written by: Walter Sobchak/February 17,2021/ 2:21 pm

Image from the United States Department of Defense imagery database

Is North Korea preparing for another missile test? A U.S. spy plane and a missile-tracking ship conducted surveillance missions over waters between the Korean Peninsula and northeast China, according to South Korean Officials.

South Korean military sources on Tuesday said that, a U.S. RC-135S Cobra Ball, A spy and recon plane, flew over the West Sea near North Koreas border.

The Cobra Ball was previously deployed from Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan. Some Online flight trackers showed the plane flying over the Yellow Sea, in September close to Chinese territory.

From Thursday to Sunday the U.S. Navy also deployed the USNS Lorenzen to the Yellow sea(West Sea) . The ship is equipped with advanced classified radar systems that do monitor and track ballistic missile launches in the region its in.

The USNS Lorenzen has been in operational since 2014. According to South Korean newspaper JoongAng Ilbo The USNS Lorenzen was deployed to international waters off the coast of North Korea in 2016 and 2017. North Korea had been conducting nuclear tests and test launched intercontinental ballistic missiles at the time of its deployment.

So its possible that the U.S knew about the upcoming test launches and placed a ship in the region to gather any information they could. Also having a ship in the area in case there was an actual launch that was aimed at another country.

Satellite imagery North Korea Ballistic missile site
Satellite imagery, via Middlebury Institute of International Studies

It turns out that is just what happened. South Korean military officials saw local media movements in North Korea. Which indicated preparations for a large-scale artillery exercise along the country’s eastern coast.

The U.S. ship’s new deployment off the western coast of the peninsula could be a sign the Navy is monitoring China, as well as Pyongyang, South Korean analysts said.

North Korea’s Sohae Satellite Launching Station Satellite images taken Jan. 30 showed snow removal at the facility where North Korea has previously test launched missiles. Which could also be a target of U.S surveillance.

U.S. analysts Peter Makowsky and Jack Liu recently said on 38 North the removal ensures “consistent access to the principal facilities.”

The United States and South Korea are expected to hold annual military exercises in March.

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