North Korea hints it will soon launch a missile

12.04.2013 07:31

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) --
Hinting at a missile launch, North
Korea delivered a fresh round of
war rhetoric Thursday with claims
it has "powerful striking means" on
standby. Seoul and Washington
speculated that it is preparing to
test-fire a missile designed to be
capable of reaching the U.S.
territory of Guam in the Pacific
The latest rhetoric came as new
U.S. intelligence was revealed
showing North Korea is now
probably capable of arming a
ballistic missile with a nuclear
On the streets of Pyongyang, North
Koreans shifted into party mode as
they celebrated the anniversary of
leader Kim Jong Un's appointment
to the country's top party post -
one in a slew of titles collected a
year ago in the months after his
father Kim Jong Il's death.
But while there was calm in
Pyongyang, there was
condemnation in London, where
foreign ministers from the Group
of Eight nations slammed North
Korea for "aggressive rhetoric" that
they warned would only further
isolate the impoverished, tightly
controlled nation.
North Korea's provocations,
including a long-range rocket
launch in December and an
underground nuclear test in
February, "seriously undermine
regional stability, jeopardize the
prospects for lasting peace on the
Korean Peninsula and threaten
international peace and security,"
the ministers said in a statement.
In the capital of neighboring South
Korea, the country's point person
on relations with the North,
Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae,
urged Pyongyang to engage in
dialogue and reverse its decision to
pull workers from a joint industrial
park just north of their shared
border, a move that has brought
factories there to a standstill.
"We strongly urge North Korea not
to exacerbate the crisis on the
Korean Peninsula," Ryoo said.
North Korea probably has advanced
its nuclear knowhow to the point
where it could arm a ballistic
missile with a nuclear warhead, but
the weapon wouldn't be very
reliable, the U.S. Defense
Intelligence Agency has concluded.
The DIA assessment was revealed
Thursday at a public hearing in
President Barack Obama warned
the unpredictable communist
regime that his administration
would "take all necessary steps" to
protect American citizens.
In his first public comments since
North Korea escalated its rhetoric,
Obama urged the north to end its
nuclear threats, saying it was time
for the isolated nation "to end the
belligerent approach they have
taken and to try to lower
"Nobody wants to see a conflict on
the Korean Peninsula," Obama
added, speaking from the Oval
Office alongside United Nations
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry
was headed to Seoul on Friday for
talks with South Korean officials
before heading on to China.
"If anyone has real leverage over
the North Koreans, it is China,"
U.S. Director of National
Intelligence James Clapper told
Congress on Thursday. "And the
indications that we have are that
China is itself rather frustrated
with the behavior and the
belligerent rhetoric of ... Kim Jong
In the latest threat from
Pyongyang, the Committee for the
Peaceful Reunification of the
Fatherland, a nonmilitary agency
that deals with relations with South
Korea, said "striking means" have
been "put on standby for a launch
and the coordinates of targets put
into the warheads." It didn't
clarify, but the language suggested
a missile.
The statement was the latest in a
torrent of warlike threats seen
outside Pyongyang as an effort to
raise fears and pressure Seoul and
Washington into changing their
North Korea policies, and to show
the North Korean people that their
young leader is strong enough to
stand up to powerful foes.
Referring to Kim Jong Un, Clapper
told Congress that "I don't think ...
he has much of an endgame other
than to somehow elicit
recognition," and to turn the
nuclear threat into "negotiation and
to accommodation and presumably
for aid."
Officials in Seoul and Washington
say Pyongyang appears to be
preparing to test-fire a medium-
range missile designed to be
capable of reaching Guam. Foreign
experts have dubbed the missile
the "Musudan" after the
northeastern village where North
Korea has a launchpad, saying it
has a range of 3,500 kilometers
(2,180 miles).
Such a launch would violate U.N.
Security Council resolutions
prohibiting North Korea from
nuclear and ballistic missile
activity, and mark a major
escalation in Pyongyang's standoff
with neighboring nations and the
United States. North Korea already
has been punished by new U.N.
sanctions for the rocket launch and
nuclear test.
Analysts do not believe North
Korea will stage an attack similar to
the one that started the Korean
War in 1950. But there are
concerns that the animosity could
spark a skirmish that could escalate
into a serious conflict.
"North Korea has been, with its
bellicose rhetoric, with its actions
... skating very close to a dangerous
line," U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck
Hagel said in Washington on
Wednesday. "Their actions and
their words have not helped defuse
a combustible situation."
Bracing for a launch that officials
said could take place at any time,
Seoul deployed three naval
destroyers, an early warning
surveillance aircraft and a land-
based radar system, a Defense
Ministry official said in Seoul,
speaking on condition of anonymity
in line with department rules. Japan
deployed PAC-3 missile
interceptors around Tokyo.
But officials in Seoul played down
security fears, noting that no
foreign government has evacuated
its citizens from either Korean
"North Korea has continuously
issued provocative threats and
made efforts to raise tension on
the Korean peninsula ... but the
current situation is being managed
safely and our and foreign
governments have been calmly
responding," Foreign Ministry
spokesman Cho Tai-young told
reporters Thursday.
Still, Taiwan urged its citizens
Thursday "to suspend travel to
South Korea for business, tourism
and educational purposes unless it
is absolutely necessary."
The Korean War ended in 1953 with
a truce, not a peace treaty, and the
U.S. and North Korea do not have
diplomatic relations.
For weeks, the U.S. and South
Korea have staged annual military
drills meant to show the allies'
military might. North Korea
condemns the drills as rehearsal
for an invasion.
In retaliation, North Korea for days
barred South Koreans from
crossing the border to get to
factories in Kaesong where they
make everything from shoes to
suits using North Korean labor.
Citing the tensions, North Korea on
Monday pulled its more than
50,000 workers from the Kaesong
complex, forcing many factories to
stop production and jeopardizing
the future of the last joint project
between the two Koreas.
Discouraged South Korean
managers continued leaving
Kaesong, packing their cars with
goods and belongings.
In Pyongyang, however, there was
no sense of turmoil. Across the
city, workers were rolling out sod
and planting trees in preparation
for a series of April holidays.
Students from Kim Chaek
University of Science and
Technology put on suits and
traditional dresses to dance in the
plaza next to the Arch of Triumph
to mark Kim Jong Un's appointment
as first secretary of the Workers'
Party a year ago.
Another key appointment falls on
Saturday, and flower show and art
performances are scheduled in the
lead-up to the nation's biggest
holiday, the April 15 birthday of
North Korea founder Kim Il Sung,
father of the country's second
leader, Kim Jong Il, and
grandfather of the current leader.
No military parade or mass events
are expected over the coming
week, but North Korea historically
uses major holidays to show off its
military power, and analysts say
Pyongyang could well mark the
occasion with a provocative missile
"However tense the situation is, we
will mark the Day of the Sun in a
significant way," Kim Kwang Chon,
a Pyongyang citizen, told The
Associated Press, referring to the
April 15 birthday. "We will
celebrate the Day of the Sun even
if war breaks out tomorrow."
During last year's celebrations,
North Korea failed in an attempt to
send a satellite into space aboard a
long-range rocket. The U.S. and its
allies criticized the launch as a
covert test of ballistic missile
The subsequent launch in
December was successful, and that
was followed by the country's third
underground nuclear test on Feb.
12, possibly taking the regime
closer to mastering the technology
for mounting an atomic weapon on
a long-range missile.