by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) Oct 14, 2017
North Korea is believed to be preparing to launch a ballistic missile ahead of an upcoming joint naval drill by the US and South Korea, a news report said Saturday, citing a government source.
The US navy said Friday that a US aircraft carrier will lead the drill in the coming week, a fresh show of force against North Korea as tensions soar over the hermit state's weapons programme.
The move will likely rile Pyongyang which has previously responded angrily to joint exercises.
The Donga Ilbo daily, quoting a government source, said satellite pictures show ballistic missiles mounted on launchers being transported out of hangars near Pyongyang and in the North Phyongan Province.
US and South Korean military officials suspect the North might be preparing to launch missiles capable of reaching US territory, the newspaper said.
This could be the Hwasong-14 inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM), whose range could extend to Alaska, or Hwasong-12 intermediate-range missiles which Pyongyang threatened to fire towards the US Pacific territory of Guam in August, the report said.
Another possibility is that the North might be preparing to test a new Hwasong-13 ICBM, it added, that has a longer maximum range than the other two missiles and could potentially reach the US West Coast.
A defence ministry spokesman declined to comment on the report, saying: "We don't comment on any matters of military intelligence".
"We are keeping a close watch over the North," he added.
The joint drills led by the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier come after hectic US military hardware movements around the Korean peninsula in recent days.
These follow a flurry of missiles from Pyongyang, which conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test last month in defiance of international sanctions.
On Friday the nuclear-powered USS Michigan submarine arrived at the southern South Korean port of Busan, just days after another nuclear-powered submarine -- the USS Tuscon -- left after a five day visit.
Earlier this week the US flew two supersonic heavy bombers over the Korean peninsula, staging the first night-time joint aviation exercises with Japan and South Korea.
That mission came 17 days after four US F-35B stealth fighter jets and two B-1Bs flew over the peninsula.
Professor Yang Moo-Jin of the University of North Korean Studies said it was "highly likely" that the North could launch missiles in response to next week's joint navy drill.
US President Donald Trump's continued threats of military action against Pyongyang if it does not tame its weapons ambitions have fuelled fears of conflict on the Korean peninsula.
But military intervention against North Korea would have "devastating consequences", NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg warned Friday, after Trump said diplomatic efforts had failed.
Earthquake hits North Korea near nuclear test site
The tremor hit at 01:41 am (1641 GMT Thursday) with a depth of around five kilometres (three miles), the US Geological Survey said, with the epicentre located north of the Punggye-Ri testing site.
"This event occurred in the area of the previous North Korean nuclear tests. The event has earthquake-like characteristics, however, we cannot conclusively confirm at this time the nature (natural or human-made) of the event," the US agency said.
But the Korea Meteorological Administration in the South said on its website that "analysis shows it was a natural quake".
"It is believed to have caused no damage," it added.
It came three weeks after a 3.5-magnitude earthquake struck near the same area, with seismic experts and a UN nuclear test ban watchdog calling that tremor on September 23 a likely aftershock of the North's sixth and largest nuclear test.
The test on September 3 triggered a much stronger 6.3-magnitude quake that was felt across the border in China and sparked global condemnation, leading the United Nations Security Council to unanimously adopt tough new sanctions against Pyongyang.
The strength of Friday's quake was much lower than the tremors registered during any of North Korea's previous nuclear tests, including its first detonation in 2006, which triggered a 4.1-magnitude quake.
Tensions have soared in recent weeks following Pyongyang's nuclear test as US President Trump engages in an escalating war of words with the North's leader Kim Jong-un.
Trump used his maiden speech to the UN in September to threaten to "destroy" the nuclear-armed nation if Kim did not back down, referring to him as "Rocket Man".
Kim responded with a rare personal rebuke, calling Trump "mentally deranged" and threatening the "highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history".
Seoul (AFP) Oct 10, 2017
North Korean computer hackers have stolen hundreds of classified military documents from South Korea including detailed wartime operational plans involving its US ally, a report said Tuesday. Rhee Cheol-Hee, a lawmaker for the ruling Democratic party, said the hackers broke into the South's military network in September last year and gained access to 235 gigabytes of sensitive data, the Chos ... read more
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