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S. Korea expects North missile test

AFP/Getty Images
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said on Wednesday in reference to North Korea that America has 'every capacity. to protect this country. and our allies.'

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By Reuters
Wednesday, April 10, 2013, 7:30 p.m.
 

SEOUL — South Korea said on Wednesday there was a “very high” probability that North Korea, after weeks of threats of war, would test-launch a medium-range missile at any time as a show of strength.

Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se said South Korea had asked China and Russia to intercede with the North to ease tension that has mounted since the U.N. Security Council imposed fresh sanctions on North Korea after its third nuclear arms test in February.

In Washington, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said North Korea was “skating very close to a dangerous line” with its threats and provocations, and warned the United States was prepared to respond to any moves by Pyongyang.

“We have every capacity to deal with any action that North Korea would take, to protect this country and the interests of this country and our allies,” Hagel said at the Pentagon.

Most observers say Pyongyang has no intention of igniting a conflict that could bring its own destruction but warn of the risks of miscalculation on the highly militarized Korean peninsula.

All was calm in the South Korean capital Seoul, long used to North Korean invective under its 30-year-old leader Kim Jong Un. Offices worked normally and customers crowded into city-center cafes.

Other officials in Seoul said surveillance of North Korean activity had been enhanced. Missile transporters had been spotted in South Hamgyong province along North Korea's east coast — a possible site for a launch.

North Korea observes several anniversaries in the next few days and they could be pretexts for displays of military strength. These include the first anniversary of Kim's formal ascent to power, the 20th anniversary of rule by his father, Kim Jong Il, who died in 2011, and Monday's anniversary of the birth of the young Kim's grandfather, state founder Kim Il Sung.

Adm. Samuel Locklear, the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific region, said on Tuesday military believed North Korea had moved an unspecified number of Musudan missiles to its east coast.

The trajectory of the missile, if launched, is unclear as the North has failed to inform international bodies — as it did in previous instances — of the path it is expected to take. But it is unlikely to be aimed directly at the South.

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