U.S. and South Korean troops increased their alert status Wednesday, as officials in Seoul and Washington warned that North Korea could conduct "multiple" missile test launches "any time from now."
South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se told parliament Wednesday that North Korea had moved two mid-range Musudan ballistic missiles to a test site on its east coast last week.
"According to intelligence obtained by our side and the United States, the possibility of a missile launch by North Korea is very high," Mr. Yun said, according to the Yonhap news agency.
He added that North Korea could execute the test launch "at any time from now."
Mr. Yun said the Musudan missile has a range of 2,175 miles, but added "it's up to North Korea how far it would fly."
North Korea has never tested the Musudan, which is a version of the reliable and well-tested Soviet SSN-6. The Musudan's maximum range means it could, in theory, strike the U.S. Pacific island territory of Guam.
Launching a missile would be a breach of U.N. Security Council resolutions prohibiting Pyongyang from testing ballistic missile technology, Mr. Yun said.
South Korean and U.S. troops in the South had raised their "watchcon" status in preparation for the launch, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
Meanwhile in Washington, a senior Pentagon official told CNN that intelligence reports indicate that North Korea could be planning "multiple missile launches" in coming days.
The official did not provide specifics on the numbers of missiles and launchers spotted by U.S. satellite imagery, but said the two intermediate-range mobile missiles North Korea has placed along its eastern coastline may have been feints to distract attention from the multiple launches they are thought to be planning.
This is a tactic the North Koreans have used in the past, the official said.
South Korean military officials told The New York Times Wednesday they had detected the movements of not only the Musudan but also shorter range Scud and Rodong missiles to the North's east coast, indicating that Pyongyang might fire multiple missiles together, as it has done before.
During the parliamentary hearing, Mr. Yun said the South Korean government has asked China and Russia to help restrain North Korea, as tensions on the Korean Peninsula mount.
"Throughout close coordination with China and Russia, the Korean government has been continuing to make efforts to persuade North Korea to change its attitude," the foreign minister said.
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