North’s notice could mean missileNorth Korea issued a week-long no-sail zone in waters off its east coast near the port city of Wonsan starting Nov. 11, according to a Seoul official on Sunday.
Some North Korea observers have said the announcement could indicate that Pyongyang is preparing to test-fire a missile.
A South Korean army official pointed out that North Korea has not typically launched missiles in the winter season, but added that “there are cases where they can be fired for political or military reasons, so [South Korea] will be observing the situation closely.”
“North Korea possesses technology that can separate a ballistic missile into sub-missiles at a high altitude and cause large damage to a wide area,” another army official pointed out. “Though this missile is meant to be fired long-range, they may test it on adjacent waters to check if this technology properly works properly.”
Pyongyang test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) on May 9, and military officials pointed out that there is a possibility that this may be tested again.
The official said, “The SLBM that North Korea test-fired in May has not been completed yet. For continuous development, there needs to be several more test-fires, and this could be such an opportunity.”
But there also have been many cases where Pyongyang has declared a no-sail zone near the end of the year and not fired any missiles.
Instead, other observers point out that the move could be be a diplomatic message sent by North Korea to the United States, Japan and South Korea as the three countries bolster their defensive alliance.
The trilateral security cooperation and an increasingly unified stance on North Korean denuclearization could have been a source of pressure for Pyongyang, they added.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Treasury Department has blacklisted North Korea’s ambassador to Myanmar for alleged involvement in illegal weapons trade.
According to the Associated Press on Friday, the Treasury said Ambassador Kim Sok Chol has received payments from the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation, an arms dealer and exporter of equipment related to ballistic missiles owned by North Korea.
BY JEONG YONG-SOO, SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]