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Posted : 2013-04-10 20:18
Updated : 2013-04-10 20:18

N. Korea's missile launch `imminent'

A South Korean Air Force E-737 Peace Eye, an early warning and control aircraft, flies over Gimhae International Airport in Busan, Wednesday, to monitor a potential missile launch by North Korea. / Yonhap

By Kang Seung-woo

Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se
Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se said Wednesday that a North Korean missile launch looked imminent.

Testifying to the National Assembly, Yun said, "Intelligence the United States and we have gathered indicates that the North is highly likely to launch missiles.

"It is possible anytime from now on," the foreign minister added.

He said that the type of missile the North is likely to fire is a Musudan, which has a range of 3,500 kilometers. Yun noted that if the North fired a missile, it would be dealt with in the United Nations Security Council. "The U.S. will not unilaterally talk with the North," he commented.

The allies raised their surveillance level on North Korean movements, while setting up an emergency task force to analyze any preparations for a missile launch.

Ahead of the possible test, the Korea-United States Combined Forces Command raised its "Watchcon" status from three — the normal defense condition — to two as it stepped up surveillance and increased the number of intelligence staff.

"We have detected four to five transporter erector launchers (TELs) in South Hamgyeong Province as well as two Musudan missiles between the provinces of Hamnam and Gangwon," a government official said, indicating that the North might launch more than one missile.

TELs are used to transport and launch Scud and Nodong missiles, which have ranges of 300 to 500 and 1,300 kilometers, respectively.

"This is a clear sign that North Korea is aiming to launching Musudan, Scud and Nodong missiles at the same time," the official added.

The Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun also reported that the North has completed preparations for a simultaneous launch, citing satellite imagery as confirmation of its readiness to do so.

The newspaper added that the country could be planning to fire Scud and Nodong missiles to cover up any launch failure of the medium-range yet untested Musudan.

CNN also reported that North Korea has most likely completed launch preparations and could test fire the mobile ballistic missiles at any time, citing a U.S. official.

"The United States believes the missiles remain at a point about half way down the eastern coast of North Korea and about 10 miles inland," it said.

North Korea's track record backs up the speculation of a simultaneous launch.

In a 2006 test, the totalitarian state fired seven missiles — one Taepodong-2, two Nodongs and four Scuds. This was followed by seven missiles in 2009 — two Nodongs and five Scuds.

Pyongyang has not issued the standard warning to commercial aviation and maritime shipping for fear of their missiles being shot down, according to another government official.

"If North Korea sets a no-fly, no-sail zone, the missile propellant and warhead will fall within the area, which would give the trajectory of any planned launches," the official said. "The North may be worried that Japan could shoot down its missiles."

The Kim Jong-un regime's readiness to launch missiles was detected last week when the Ministry of National Defense confirmed the transfer of Musudan missiles to its east coast; and Yonhap News reported Friday that the North had loaded two intermediate-range missiles onto mobile launchers and hidden them at an unidentified facility, also on the east coast.

In response, South Korea and Japan have dispatched several Aegis radar-equipped destroyers to the East Sea to track the missiles' trajectory.

Pyongyang watchers expect the communist state to carry out a missile test within a week, given that some of its key national anniversaries occur in that time frame.

Last year, Kim Jong-un was given the titles of first secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea on April 11 and became first chairman of the National Defense Commission on April 13.

In addition, the anniversary of the birth of nation founder Kim Il-sung falls on April 15, known as the Day of the Sun. Last year, the North held a large-scale military parade to mark the centenary of his birth.


관련 한글 기사

중국 학자 "북한, 전면전 도발 가능성"

북한 지도부가 자국 군사력에 대한 비이성적인 맹신 탓에 전면전 도발을 감행할 가능성이 있다고 중국 학자가 우려를 제기했다.

한반도 전문가인 장롄구이(張璉괴) 중앙당교 국제전략연구소 교수는 10일 환구시보(環球時報) 기고문에서 '현재 조선반도(한반도)의 전쟁 발발 가능성이 매우 커 그 확률이 70∼80%에 달할 것으로 판단한다'고 밝혔다.

장 교수는 북한인들이 어려서부터 자국이 가장 강력한 군사대국 가운데 하나라고 배우는 가운데 성장한다면서 외부에서는 이런 판단을 비웃지만 이런 견해는 그들의 진정한 견해라고 지적했다.

장 교수는 특히 북한의 최고 지도자인 김정은 국방위원회 제1위원장이 전쟁을 직접 겪지 않아 자연히 자국이 군사대국이라는 판단을 내일 수 있다고 분석하면서 북한 지도자 집단의 비이성적 태도가 매우 위험할 수 있다고 진단했다.

북한이 전면전을 감행할 수 있는지를 놓고 중국 학자들 사이에서는 의견이 분분하다.

스인훙(時殷弘) 인민대학 국제관계학원 교수는 전날 중국 언론과 인터뷰에서 한반도 무력 충돌 가능성과 관련, 전면전의 가능성은 작겠지만 연평도 포격 같은 '작은 마찰'이 일어날 가능성은 있다고 밝혔다.




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