South Korea on full alert

South Korean troops on the move.
South Korean troops on the move.

SEOUL — South Korea has raised its alert level to “vital threat” amid indications the North is preparing for a missile test.

At least one ballistic missile with an estimated 3,000 kilometre range is fuelled and ready for launch, US and South Korean sources say.

Pyongyang has been making bellicose threats against South Korea, Japan and US bases in the region.

The threats follow tough new UN sanctions imposed on North Korea last month after its third nuclear test.

Separately, an initial investigation by the South into a major cyber attack last month that affected a number of banks and broadcasters has said the North is to blame.

North Korea is believed to have completed preparations for a missile launch after it moved two Musudan missiles to its east coast, Yonhap news agency says.

In anticipation, the South Korea-US Combined Forces have raised their alert level to Watchcon 2, to increase surveillance monitoring, Yonhap quoted a senior military official as saying.

North Korea unveiled the Musudan missile during a military parade in 2010 but has yet to test it. There are reports, however, that it may have been sold to Iran and tested there.

The launch could happen “anytime from now”, South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se told parliament.

A test launch would be a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1718, passed in 2006, which states the North “must not conduct any further nuclear test or launch of a ballistic missile”.

North Korea has tested intermediate range missiles before and during periods of crisis and tension,.

So while another test launch would certainly be seen as provocative, it is unlikely to have any major, short-term military significance unless it goes wrong. (BBC)

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