U.S.: North Korea missiles moved from launch site
Published: Monday, May 6, 2013, 9:30 p.m.
North Korea has taken two Musudan missiles off launch-ready status and moved them from their position on the country's east coast, U.S. officials said on Monday, after weeks of concern that Pyongyang had been poised for a test launch.
Secretary of State John Kerry warned North Korea last month that it would be a “huge mistake” to launch the medium-range missiles, but the prospects of a test had put Seoul, Washington and Toyko on edge.
One U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, cautioned that the missiles were still mobile and the fact that they had been moved was no guarantee they would not be set up elsewhere and fired at some point.
“It is premature to celebrate it as good news,” said another official, Daniel Russel, the senior director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council.
However, a third official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States did not believe the missiles had gone to an alternate launch site and that they were believed to be in a non-operational location.
The Musudan missiles have a range of about 1,900 to 2,200 miles.
A possible test launch, depending on its trajectory, could have dramatically escalated tensions on the Korean peninsula.
North Korea's move coincided with preparations by President Obama to meet South Korean President Park Guen-hye at the White House on Tuesday, where they will hold talks and have a working lunch followed by a joint news conference.
Pentagon spokesman George Little declined to comment on the status of the North Korean missiles.
“I wouldn't again comment on intelligence. But what we have seen recently is a ‘provocation pause.' And we think that's obviously beneficial to efforts to ensure we have peace and stability on the Korean peninsula,” Little told reporters.
The heightened tensions, including North Korean threats to attack U.S. bases in the Pacific, coincided with U.S.-South Korean military drills that Pyongyang had branded “a rehearsal for invasion.” Those drills ended on April 30.
In a rare show of force during the drills, two nuclear-capable, bat-winged B-2 stealth bombers flew 37 1/2 hours from their U.S. base to drop dummy munitions on a South Korean range, and then returned home.
Asked what may have contributed to Pyonyang's latest move, Little noted various possibilities, including the fact that, North Korea's previous cycles of provocation had ended after a while.
He also noted that the Chinese government had made some helpful statements.
“We do think they (China) probably - again I can't speak for them - they probably heard very loudly from us and from others the need to ratchet it back and lower the temperature,” Little said.
The White House's Russel told reporters it was too early to determine whether North Korea's apparent move away from a launch was an encouraging development.
“It's premature to make a judgment about whether the North Koreans' provocation cycle is going up, down or zigzagging,” he said. “The decision to launch or not launch missiles, to conduct a provocation or to stand down or defer it, is a decision that rests with the North Koreans.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- First lady’s absence from trip unsettles Japan
- Pope pleads for peace, end to starvation, help for needy
- Ex-army chief, leftist to seek Egyptian presidency
- Ukraine, Russia trade blame for shootout in east
- Radio transcript reveals South Korean ferry crew wavered on evacuation
- Abdullah widens lead in Afghan vote tally
- Yemen: Airstrike targets al-Qaida training camps
- On Easter, Syria’s President Assad visits Christian town recaptured from rebels
- Pope Francis, huge crowd joyously celebrate Easter
- Holocaust survivors taxed, student finds in search of Amsterdam city archives