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North Korea Prepares Possible Mid-Range Missile Launch

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North Korea positioned one or two Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missiles near the eastern port city of Wonsan, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reports, possibly preparing for a launch on Friday to honor the birthday of the country’s late founder, Kim Il Sung.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry spokesperson Moon Sang-gyun said, “Our military is closely following the possibility of North Korea’s fifth nuclear test or launches of ballistic missiles,” according to Yonhap. The news agency also cited unnamed South Korean military sources who said a mobile launcher was loaded with up to two missiles.

The North followed a nuclear test in January with a long-range rocket launch in February. Then in March, leader Kim Jong Un ordered more nuclear and weapons tests. This aggression sparked a new round of U.N. sanctions on the hermit kingdom, some of the strictest yet.

The Musudan missiles are thought to have a range of up to 4,000 km, according to Yonhap, which would put Guam, a U.S. island territory, in range. While Pyongyang’s ability to launch a missile that could reach the U.S. remains very low, U.S. defense official Brian McKeon told a Senate hearing on Wednesday, “North Korea’s weapons and missile programs pose a growing threat.”


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Write to Mark Rivett-Carnac at mark.rivett-carnac@timeasia.com