North moved a missile to eastern coast: Ministry

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North moved a missile to eastern coast: Ministry

In its latest saber-rattling, North Korea moved a mid-range missile towards its eastern coast, the South Korean Ministry of National Defense confirmed yesterday.

It has a “considerable” range, the ministry said, but does not put the continental United States within Pyongyang’s reach.

This came as Pyongyang early yesterday warned that its military is cleared to wage an attack on the U.S. using “smaller, lighter and diversified” nuclear weapons through the North’s Korean Central News Agency.

Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin said yesterday that the missile Pyongyang deployed yesterday “is not the KN-08 but can reach a considerable distance,” but that “the missile does not appear to target the U.S. mainland.”

Kim was responding to an earlier Asahi Shimbun report that identified the missile as the long-range, mobile missile KN-08, which the North purports has a range of up to 10,000 kilometers (6,213 miles) putting South Korea, Japan and even the U.S. mainland in its range. Analysts estimate that the range of the KN-08 may be closer to over 5,000 kilometers.

Kim declined to identify the missile but added that its deployment could be “with the objective of test firing or military drills.”

Analysts speculated that April 15, the 101st anniversary of the birth of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, could be a possible date to fire the missile.

Some military experts speculate that the missile might be the medium-range Musudan, which has a 3,000 to 4,000 kilometer range that would put the U.S. territory of Guam within striking range. The Musudan has yet to be test-fired.

The Pentagon Wednesday said the U.S. will counter the North Korean threat with a land-based, high-altitude missile defense system in Guam that is capable of shooting down long-range ballistic missiles.

The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) ballistic missile defense system, said the Pentagon, will serve “as a precautionary move to strengthen [the] regional defense posture against the North Korean regional ballistic missile threat.”

This anti-ballistic system, which includes a truck-mounted launcher, tracking radar, interceptor missiles and an integrated fire control system, will be set up in Guam in the next few weeks.

“Some of the actions [North Korea has] taken over the last few weeks present a real and clear danger and threat to the interests, certainly of our allies, starting with South Korea and Japan,” said U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel Wednesday after meeting with Korea’s Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se. Hagel said Pyongyang’s threats have been “leveled directly at the United States.”

The deployment of the missile defense shield is the latest step taken by Washington to bolster defenses in the region.

Although the U.S. Defense Department has been affected by budget cuts this year because of the so-called sequestration, it stated this will not affect defense capacity in the Asia-Pacific region under its “nuclear umbrella.”

Over the past month, Pyongyang threatened strikes on South Korea, U.S. bases in Asia and even the U.S. mainland. For the ongoing South Korea-U.S. joint military drills, the U.S. sent a pair of B-2 Spirit stealth bombers and its most advanced F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets.

By Sarah Kim []
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