North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (centre) presides over an urgent operation meeting on the Korean People's Army Strategic Rocket Force's performance of duty for firepower strike at the Supreme Command in Pyongyang. North Korea put its rocket units on standby on Friday to attack US military bases in South Korea and the Pacific. (Reuters Photo)
North Korea has moved a missile with “considerable range” to its east coast, South Korea’s defense minister said Thursday, but he added that there are no signs that Pyongyang is preparing for a full-scale conflict. The United States, meanwhile, said it will deploy a missile defence system to the island of Guam.
The report came hours after North Korea’s military warned that it has been authorized to attack the U.S. using “smaller, lighter and diversified” nuclear weapons. It was the North’s latest war cry against America in recent weeks. The reference to smaller weapons could be a claim that Pyongyang has improved its nuclear technology. Or a bluff.
South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin said he did not know the reasons behind the North’s missile movement, and that it “could be for testing or drills.”
He dismissed reports in Japanese media that the missile could be a KN-08, which is believed to be a long-range missile that if operable could hit the United States.
Kim told lawmakers at a parliamentary committee meeting that the missile has “considerable range” but not enough to hit the U.S. mainland.
The range he described could refer to a mobile North Korean missile known as the Musudan, believed to have a range of 3,000 kilometers (1,800 miles). That would make Japan and South Korea potential targets - along with U.S. bases in both countries - but there are doubts about the missile’s accuracy.
The Pentagon announced that it will deploy a missile defense system to the US Pacific territory of Guam to strengthen regional protection against a possible attack.
Experts say North Korea has not demonstrated that it has missiles capable of long range or accuracy.
Some suspect that long-range missiles unveiled by Pyongyang at a parade last year were actually mockups.