U.S. Detects N.Korea Missile-Test Preparations, Asahi Says

U.S. Detects N.Korea Missile-Test Preparations
Members of the North Korean military march during a parade commemorating the 65th anniversary of the Korea Worker's Party in Pyongyang, North Korea. Photographer: Dieter Depypere/Bloomberg

The U.S. told Japan and South Korea it detected preparations indicating North Korea could be preparing to test long-range ballistic missile as early as this month, the Asahi newspaper reported today.

A press official at South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said he couldn’t confirm the Asahi newspaper report. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to military policy, said the army was watching North Korea as usual and South Korea’s alert level was unchanged.

The warning comes two years after four people were killed when North Korean artillery shelled Yeonpyeong Island near a disputed sea border, and as South Korea prepares for presidential elections next month. North Korea won’t “miss the opportunity” if “warmongers perpetrate another provocation,” an unidentified North Korean military spokesman said in a statement published yesterday by the Korea Central News Agency.

North Korea said in October that it has developed missiles capable of reaching the U.S., a claim disputed by academics including Yang Moo Jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul. The regime in April fired a long-range rocket that failed shortly after liftoff, an act that cost it a food-aid deal with the U.S.

Katherine Pfaff, a press officer at the State Department in Washington, said she had no information on the matter. Calls to Japan’s Defense Ministry went unanswered today, a national holiday.

South Korea’s Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin said the communist state may carry out provocations ahead of the Dec. 19 election, Yonhap News reported yesterday.

Defense Stocks

Victek Co., a manufacturer of electronic warfare equipment, gained 7.8 percent, most since April 23, to close at 1,520 won in Seoul today, leading a surge for defense-related shares. Speco Co. rose 5.8 percent and Huneed Technologies, a maker of military communications gear, advanced 2.2 percent.

The U.S., which has military alliances with South Korea and Japan, last month agreed to extending the range of South Korea’s ballistic missiles to 800 kilometers (500 miles) from 300 kilometers to protect against a possible attack from the North. The two also agreed to target North Korea’s military facilities.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s regime has repeatedly accused the U.S. and South Korea of military provocations, and earlier this month said American policy has brought the peninsula closer to nuclear war.

Kim Jong Un took over the leadership of North Korea in December upon the death of his father, Kim Jong Il. He inherited an economy one-fortieth the size of South Korea’s, and a government that has poured most of its resources into a 1.2-million-strong military. It also has more than 250 long-range artillery sites along the world’s most fortified border.

North Korea’s arsenal includes Scud, Rodong and Musudan missiles. The Musudan has a range of more than 3,000 kilometers and can carry a 650-kilogram (1,430- pound) warhead, according to South Korean estimates. The U.S. mainland is more than 7,000 kilometers from North Korea.

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