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North Korea's Nukes

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U.S. and Allies Ponder North Korean Nuclear Strike

April 4th 2013

North Korean launch

The United States expects North Korea will launch one of its missiles in the coming days. Defense Department officials told the Voice of America that intelligence gathered over the past few weeks suggests Pyongyang is serious about making good on some of its threats against Seoul and Washington.

North Korea said on April 4 that its military has been given final approval for a nuclear attack against the United States - a threat that most anlysts think Pyongyang would be unable to carry out.

South Korea said it has confirmed the North has moved one of its missiles to the country's east coast, and Defense Minister Kim Kwan-Jin said while the missile appears to have "considerable range," it is unlikely it could reach the U.S. mainland. "Looking at the missile's range, it doesn't look like it will be able to reach the American continent," said Kim.

Pentagon officials told CNN on April 4 that the Obama administration is seeking to restrain American rhetoric about the North Korean hermit state. "We accused the North Koreans of amping things up, now we are worried we did the same thing," a Defense Department official told CNN. This came on the same day that CNN was told that U.S. intelligence intercepts suggested that North Korea is planning a missile launch within the next days or weeks.

Tensions Rising on Korean Peninsula

South Korea's semi-official news agency Yonhap quoted officials in Seoul as saying the missile is likely the Musudan, also known as the BM-25, a ground-launched rocket 12 to 19 meters long that can carry a conventional 1,200-kilogram bomb. It could potentially carry a nuclear warhead, but analysts think that, too, is beyond North Korea's current capabilities. The Musudan has a range of about 3,000 kilometers - far enough to hit South Korea or Japan.

South Korean Defense Minister Kim told a parliamentary committee in Seoul that North Korea has moved a medium-range missile to its East coast for an imminent test firing or military drill, according to Yonhap.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says the Pentagon is treating the threats seriously. He said on April 3 the United States will soon deploy an advanced missile defense system to the Pacific island of Guam as a precautionary move. Pyongyang, which is angry about recent United Nations sanctions against its nuclear program, has issued near-daily threats against Seoul and Washington.
 
Renewed threats
 
North Korean state-run television on April 4 showed more mass rallies against the U.S. But several countries in the region fear they could be more likely targets for Pyongyang. North Korea has vowed to attack U.S. bases in Japan, South Korea, Guam and Hawaii.

Japan's chief Cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, said Japan is in close cooperation with Washington and Seoul. "Japan will not be pushed around by North Korea's provocations and will continue to work together with relating countries to comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions. We strongly urge North Korea that it's not in their interests to take further provocative actions," said Suga.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich urged North Korea to tone down the rhetoric and return to diplomacy. "This radically complicates, if it doesn't in practice shut off, the prospects for resuming six-party talks to resolve the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula," he said.

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron expressed "real concern" over North Korea's threats. While speaking to Scottish defense-industry workers on April 4, Cameron said that the threat underlines the necessity of retaining Britain's fleet of Trident submarines. Said Cameron, ..“North Korea does now have missile technology that is able to reach the whole of the U.S.,” adding, “If so they can reach Europe and us too.” 

Kaesong industrial complex
 
Meanwhile, the future of a joint industrial complex between North and South Korea remained in question, as Pyongyang blocked South Korean workers from entering the center for a second day. In Seoul, VOA's Steve Herman said more than 600 South Koreans spent the night at the Kaesong industrial complex, after about 200 returned home Thursday. Six Chinese nationals are also stranded there.

The Kaesong industrial zone, about 10 kilometers inside North Korea, and is an important source of income for cash-strapped Pyongyang. North Korea has responded furiously to tough U.N. sanctions meant to punish Pyongyang for its third nuclear test in February and its latest satellite launch. It is also upset at ongoing annual U.S.-South Korea military drills.

- from VOA and agency reports.


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