North Korea relocated missile, South says
SEOUL — After a series of escalating threats, North Korea has moved a missile with “considerable range” to its east coast, South Korea's defense minister said on Thursday. But he emphasized that the missile is not capable of reaching the United States and that there are no signs that the North is preparing for a full-scale conflict.
North Korea has been railing against U.S.-South Korean military exercises that began in March and are to continue until the end of this month. The allies insist the exercises in South Korea are routine, but the North calls them rehearsals for an invasion and says it needs nuclear weapons to defend itself. The North has expressed anger over tightened U.N. sanctions for its February nuclear test.
Analysts say the ominous warnings in recent weeks are probably efforts to provoke softer policies from South Korea, to win diplomatic talks with Washington and solidify the image of young North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Many of the threats occur in the middle of the night in Asia — daytime for the U.S. audience.
The report of the movement of the missile was made hours after North Korea's military warned that it has been authorized to attack the United States by using “smaller, lighter and diversified” nuclear weapons. The reference to smaller weapons could be a claim that North Korea has improved its nuclear technology or a bluff.
The North is not believed to have mastered the technology needed to miniaturize nuclear bombs enough to mount them on long-range missiles. Nor has it demonstrated that those missiles, if it has them at all, are accurate.
Experts say North Korea has not shown that it has accurate long-range missiles. Some think an apparent long-range missile displayed by the North in a parade last year was a mockup.
“From what we know of its existing inventory, North Korea has short- and medium-range missiles that could complicate a situation on the Korean Peninsula (and perhaps reach Japan), but we have not seen any evidence that it has long-range missiles that could strike the continental U.S., Guam or Hawaii,” James Hardy, Asia Pacific editor of IHS Jane's Defence Weekly, wrote in a recent analysis.
South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin said that if North Korea were preparing for a full-scale conflict, there would be signs such as the mobilization of a number of units, including supply and rear troops, but South Korean military officials have found no such preparations.