North Korea has placed at least one of its deployed missiles in the firing position, deepening international worries that the nation is on the verge of carrying out a launch that might lead to regional escalation, CNN reported.
An anonymous U.S. official pointed out that the missile might have been raised to the upright firing position in order to confuse the United States and partner nations, which are watching to see if Pyongyang makes good on threats to carry out ballistic missile strikes.
The missile deployed on North Korea's east coast is believed to be an intermediate-range Musudan, which while never known to have been tested is thought to have a capability to strike targets as far away as U.S. military bases on Guam.
The North has been shuffling around its mobile missile launchers deployed on the east coast to make it harder for foreign nations to keep track of the systems, unidentified insiders told the Yonhap News Agency on Thursday.
"There are signs the North could fire off Musudan missiles anytime soon. But the North has been repeatedly moving its missiles in and out of a shed [in the port city of Wonsan], which needs close monitoring," an intelligence insider said.
South Korea believes there is a strong probability that North Korea will launch a missile close to April 15 to commemorate the birthday of regime founder Kim Il Sung. Seoul officials have said Pyongyang might launch multiple missiles from separate locations.
Mobile launch platforms detected in South Hamgyeong Province are believed to be designed for the firing of medium-range Nodong missiles and shorter-range Scud missiles. Patriot batteries are on standby to carry out an intercept should it appear missiles are heading toward the South.
Seoul and Washington believe up to five medium-range missiles could be ready for use on the North'e east coast, Reuters reported.
The North Korean Committee for Peaceful Reunification on Thursday said "powerful striking means" were primed for firing, the Associated Press reported.
Regardless of its rhetorical posturing and missile deployments, North Korea has not carried out the sweeping military mobilizations that would indicate a new war is in the offing, according to USA Today.
Meanwhile, the U. S. military has repositioned its Sea-Based X-band early warning radar for better monitoring of potential missile firings by the North, an anonymous Pentagon official told Agence France-Presse.
South Korean Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae on Thursday said he would like to see inter-Korean talks take place to defuse tensions in a remark that was seen as more pacifying than previous comments by the new Park Geun-hye administration, the New York Times reported.
South Korea's foreign policy chief is expected to discuss the likelihood of a North Korean missile launch with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry when they meet in Seoul on Friday, according to Yonhap.
Kerry met with other top diplomats from the Group of Eight nations on Thursday.. The foreign policy chiefs called on Pyongyang to to "refrain from further provocative acts" but devised no specific plans for addressing the situation, Reuters reported.