Kim Directs North Korean Missiles Prepped for Attacks

North Korean university students march in Pyongyang on Friday as part of a massive display of support for ruler Kim Jong Un, who directed the nation's missiles to be kept ready for use against South Korea or the United States (AP Photo/Jon Chol Jin).
North Korean university students march in Pyongyang on Friday as part of a massive display of support for ruler Kim Jong Un, who directed the nation's missiles to be kept ready for use against South Korea or the United States (AP Photo/Jon Chol Jin).

North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un on Friday directed the country's missile forces be kept at launch readiness for possible attacks on South Korea and the United States, an action officials in Seoul said could signal more trial launches or merely militaristic rhetoric, the New York Times reported.

Pyongyang-managed media said Kim issued the order at a crisis session even though the military's Supreme Command appeared to have given a corresponding directive earlier this week that all long-range missile units go on "highest alert" for possible strikes on South Korea, U.S. territory in the Pacific and the mainland United States. The Stalinist state is seemingly trying to give the order added heft by having it come from Kim as well.

"We believe they are taking follow-up steps. South Korean and American intelligence authorities are closely watching whether North Korea is preparing its short, medium, and long-range missiles, including its Scud, Rodong and Musudan," South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said.

South Korean news organizations and anonymous officials have cited a recent uptick in movements of North Korean military vehicles and personnel at missile installations. At the same time the allied U.S. and South Korean militaries are carrying out joint exercises including recent practice bombing sorties by U.S. nuclear-capable strategic aircraft.

An unidentified defense source told the Yonhap News Agency the North could be readying an engine assessment for a strategic rocket.

Most analysts and officials in Seoul doubt Pyongyang has the military capability to make good on its threats of nuclear-tipped missile attacks on the United States, according to the Times. However, it has the capacity to hit closer targets in Japan, South Korea and other regional nations, or to carry out a different sort of provocation.

“The United States is fully capable of defending itself and our allies,” the New York Times quoted Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Catherine Wilkinson as saying. "North Korea’s bellicose rhetoric and threats follow a pattern designed to raise tensions and intimidate others.”

President Obama authorized the bombing drill by two B-2 nuclear-capable bombers at the request of Seoul, which wanted a display of the "extended deterrence" the U.S. military provides, anonymous U.S. officials told the Wall Street Journal.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Thursday insisted Washington was not trying to provoke Pyongyang into battle, according to The Hill.

"We are not poking back or responding" to Pyongyang's rhetoric, he said at a Pentagon press conference. "The issue is we have to be prepared to defend our interests in the region."

The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Friday urged involved parties to dial back Korean Peninsula tensions, Reuters reported.

Russia on Friday also warned that the stepped-up military movements on the Korean Peninsula were tipping toward a "vicious cycle" that risked spiraling out of control. Its statement was taken as a rejoinder to Washington for the bomber fly-overs, Reuters separately reported.

"We are concerned that alongside the adequate, collective reaction of the U.N. Security Council, unilateral action is being taken around North Korea that is increasing military activity," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

March 29, 2013
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North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un on Friday directed the country's missile forces be kept at launch readiness for possible attacks on South Korea and the United States, an action officials in Seoul said could signal more trial launches or merely militaristic rhetoric, the New York Times reported.

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