North Korea has placed two longer-range missiles on mobile firing platforms and secreted them away to a mysterious installation close to the east coast, the Yonhap News Agency reported on Friday, citing anonymous South Korean military insiders.
Musudan ballistic missiles are understood to have a range of between 1,550 and 2,485 miles, which could place U.S. military forces on Guam within striking distance. The reliability of the weapon is not known as it is not clear it has even ever been tested. It is also not known if Pyongyang is planning a trial launch of the missiles, an actual attack, or just another elaborate feint designed to draw international attention and concessions.
"Early this week, the North moved two Musudan missiles on the train and placed them on mobile launchers," a high-ranking armed forces insider said.
The South has now deployed to the West and East seas Aegis ballistic missile defense warships with sophisticated radars. The United States has also sent an advanced antimissile system to Guam and repositioned Aegis-equipped guided missile destroyers closer to North Korean waters.
Loading the missiles onto mobile launchpads and hiding them from satellite view is believed aimed at leaving outside nations unawares of the timing of the launch, according to the official.
Most analysts do not believe Pyongyang intends to fire on Guam, which would almost certainly draw a forceful retaliation from the United States.
North Korea on Friday informed a number of nations that beginning on Wednesday it might no longer be able to protect their diplomatic missions in Pyongyang in the event of an outbreak of hostilities. It suggested their envoys be evacuated from the capital, Bloomberg reported.
White House spokesman Jay Carney on Thursday said "we're talking all necessary precautions" in response to the North's threats of missile strikes on South Korea and the United States, Agence France-Presse reported. He also sought to place Pyongyang's bellicose rhetoric in context, noting it fits a "regrettable but familiar" cycle of provocations.
Former White House WMD czar Gary Samore in an interview with Reuters said he was highly doubtful that North Korea planned an attack on the United States and that it lacked the nuclear-armed ICBMs to carry one out.
Samore, who left the Obama administration at the beginning of the year, said "it's extremely unlikely they have a nuclear missile which could reach the United States."
The Kim Jong Un regime is "not suicidal. They know that any kind of direct attack (on the United States) would be [the] end of their country," he said.
The United States will cease publicly promoting ongoing bilateral armed forces maneuvers with South Korea after highlighting recent flyovers by U.S. B-2 and B-52 nuclear-capable bombers that infuriated the North, Obama officials told Reuters on Thursday.
Should the North unleash a nuclear strike or a major attack on South Korea, the United States would deliver a military response with the aim of regime change, an anonymous high-ranking congressional staffer who has been informed about military contingency planning told the Washington Times.