North Korea has moved a medium-range missile to its east coast,South Korea said today as the United States strengthened its Pacific missile defences amid intensifying threats from Pyongyang.
Seoul’s defence minister Kim Kwan-Jin said the missile could reach a “considerable distance” but not the US mainland.
“It could be aimed at test-firing or military drills,” he told lawmakers.
North Korea,incensed at fresh UN sanctions and South Korea-US military drills,has issued a series of apocalyptic threats of nuclear war in recent weeks.
Early today its military said it had received final approval for military action against the United States,possibly involving nuclear weapons.
“The moment of explosion is approaching fast,” the general staff said,responding to what it called the provocative US use of nuclear-capable B-52 and B-2 stealth bombers in war games with South Korea.
The US aggression would be “smashed by… cutting-edge smaller,lighter and diversified nuclear strike means,” it said in a statement.
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Pyongyang’s increasingly bellicose threats combined with its military capabilities represented a “real and clear danger” to the United States and its allies South Korea and Japan.
The Pentagon said it would send ground-based THAAD missile-interceptor batteries to protect bases on Guam,a US territory some 3,380 kilometres southeast of North Korea and home to 6,000 American military personnel.
“They have nuclear capacity now,they have missile delivery capacity now,” Hagel said yesterday. “We take those threats seriously.”
Intelligence analysis quoted by South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said the east coast missile was believed to be a Musudan which has an estimated range of around 3,000km or more.
Yonhap quoted sources as saying Pyongyang is likely to fire it around the middle of April,when North Koreans celebrate the birthday of their late founder Kim Il-Sung.