Friday, April 5, 2013

South Korea Navy on alert for North Korean missile launch

SEOUL, April 5, 2013 DPA

The South Korean Navy on Friday dispatched two destroyers to watch for a possible North Korean missile launch, a news report said.

The 7,600-ton Aegis destroyers were equipped with SPY-1 radar, allowing them to track hundreds of objects simultaneously from up to 1,000 kilometres away, Yonhap news agency quoted a senior Navy official as saying.

"If the North fires off a missile, we will trace its trajectory," he said.

The vessels would watch both sides of the peninsula, he said.

North Korea moved a KN-08 missile to its east coast on Thursday, according to several media reports.

The missile's range was thought to reach "a considerable distance," including Japan, South Korea and U.S. military bases on the Pacific Island of Guam, South Korean Defence Minister Kim Kwan Jin was quoted as telling parliament by several news reports.

It could not reach the U.S. mainland as threatened by Pyongyang, he said, but "could be aimed at test-firing or military drills." Washington was taking "all necessary precautions," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on Thursday.

The Pentagon said it was moving batteries capable of intercepting ballistic missiles to Guam.

Also Friday, operations were halted at an industrial park jointly run by North and South Korea, to observe the North's arbor day public holiday, Yonhap said.

The 53,000 North Korean workers employed in the Kaesong complex 10 kilometres north of the border did not show up for work, the South's Unification Ministry and companies with operations in the zone were quoted as saying by Seoul-based Yonhap news agency.

Pyongyang has barred traffic from South Korea into the park since Wednesday, only allowing workers to leave, amid heightened diplomatic tensions.

Operations were likely to be affected as parts and materials run low, a company manager with a factory in Kaesong was quoted as saying by the report. Companies were already sharing food supplies, he said.

Tensions have risen since Pyongyang's third nuclear test on February 12, which prompted fresh sanctions against it.

Communist North Korea has issued increasingly bellicose threats against South Korea and the United States, including of nuclear strikes.

It says the threats are a response to the sanctions and to military drills by the two military allies around the peninsula in March, which the North called a rehearsal for an invasion.

Pyongyang said on Tuesday that it would restart a nuclear plant with the capacity to produce weapons-grade plutonium, after it shut down and partly demolished the facility in 2007 in return for promises of international aid.

The move was condemned by the European Union, the United Nations, the U.S., Russia and by China, traditionally the isolated regime's strongest diplomatic ally.
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