South Korea warns of possible missile launch by North this week
SEOUL, South Korea — The South Korean government warned on Sunday that the North might launch a missile later this week, while a top military leader postponed a scheduled trip to Washington, citing escalating tensions on the peninsula.
The warning by Kim Jang-soo, director of national security for President Park Geun-hye, came three days after the South Korea’s defense minister said that the North had moved to its east coast a missile with a “considerable range” but not capable of reaching the mainland United States.
The missile was widely believed to be the Musudan, which the South Korean military says can travel “more than” 3,000 kilometers or 1,864 miles. But South Korean media and analysts say the missile can extend its range to 4,000 kilometers, which would put U.S. bases in Guam within its reach.
Kim said that the North Korean authorities had told foreign embassies in Pyongyang to inform them by Wednesday whether they needed assistance in evacuating should they wish to because of rising tensions on the peninsula.
The North gave a similar warning to some of the 123 South Korean factories in the joint industry park in the North Korean city of Kaesong, Kim said.
“We believe this is a calculated move by the North,” Kim said during a meeting of security-related officials on Sunday. The North, he said, “may launch a provocation, such as missile launch,” around Wednesday, he said.
North Korea was raising tensions in an effort to frighten and force the U.S. and South Korea to return to dialogue with possible concessions, Kim said. The pressure was also aimed at China and Russia to mediate on North Korea’s behalf.
Also on Sunday, Gen. Jung Seung-Jo, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the South Korean military, postponed plans to meet with his U.S. counterpart, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, in Washington on April 16, military officials said. Jung could not be away from South Korea amid the rising tension, the officials said.