- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 19, 2003

SEOUL — North Korea has moved heavy artillery closer to the tense border with South Korea and last year deployed more missiles that are capable of reaching Japan, officials in the Defense Ministry in Seoul said yesterday.

They released the report during a flurry of diplomatic efforts led by China to convene another trilateral meeting of China, the United States and North Korea to seek a peaceful resolution to the latest nuclear standoff on the peninsula.

For decades, North Korea has deployed much of its conventional military force close to the border, and it would be capable of inflicting devastation on Seoul in the early stages of any conflict. However, the South Korean military did not alter its alert posture in response to the report on the North Korean artillery and missiles, indicating that a major escalation of tension is not imminent.

Armies on both sides of the border have been in a high state of vigilance since the 1950-53 Korean War.

North Korea “has increased the threat on South Korea’s capital by moving forward 170 mm and 240 mm long-range artillery,” the South Korean Defense Ministry said in its policy report. It did not specify when the redeployment occurred nor how many guns were shifted.

North Korea’s artillery and rocket launchers could quickly shower thousands of shells on Seoul, 37 miles south of the border. Yet most residents of Seoul have grown up with the threat, and there was no sense of alarm in the capital.

The South Korean Defense Ministry also said that in June 2002 the North deployed a “battalion” of No Dong missiles, which can hit targets as far away as 810 miles. That includes Japan, a crucial U.S. ally in the region. But it did not say how many missiles were in the battalion nor where they were deployed.

North Korea shocked the region in 1998 by test-firing a Taepo Dong-1 missile over Japan and into the Pacific. The North said it was an attempt to insert a satellite into orbit.

It was not clear why South Korea released what seemed to be old intelligence about the North Korean missiles at such a sensitive time on the Korean Peninsula. The Defense Ministry sometimes appears hawkish on North Korea in comparison with other government ministries, which espouse reconciliation with the North.

In diplomacy on the nuclear issue, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo met with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and other U.S. officials in Washington after talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il last week.

U.S. officials said they told the envoy that Washington would agree to another three-way meeting but that there must be a clear prospect for an expanded forum that would include Japan and South Korea.

The first trilateral meeting was held in Beijing in April.

North Korea has demanded one-on-one discussions with the United States because it says the nuclear issue is bilateral. However, the Bush administration says the issue is regional and wants multilateral talks.

The nuclear dispute flared in October, when U.S. officials said North Korea admitted to having a clandestine nuclear program, in violation of its international agreements.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide