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South Korea and US still on alert

Female North Korean soldiers patrol along the banks of Yalu River, near the North Korean town of SinuijuSEOUL — South Korea and the United States were on high alert for a North Korean missile launch today as the reclusive and poverty-stricken state turned its attention to celebrating the ruling Kim dynasty and appeared to tone down rhetoric of impending war.

Despite threats it will attack US bases and the South in response to any hostile acts, North Korea started to welcome a stream of visitors for Monday’s celebrations marking the birthday of founding father, Kim Il-sung.

North Korea has stationed as many as five medium-range missiles on its east coast, according to defence assessments made by Washington and Seoul, possibly in readiness for a test launch that would demonstrate its ability to hit US bases on Guam.

“There are signs the North could fire off Musudan missiles any time soon,” an unnamed intelligence source in Seoul told Yonhap news agency.

Musudan missiles are medium-range missiles that have the potential to hit US bases on Guam, although it is not known whether they have been tested or can fly that far.

“But the North has been repeatedly moving its missiles in and out of a shed, which needs close monitoring.”

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 militarised Korean peninsula.

There did not appear to be any signs of panic in Seoul, the South Korean capital, and financial markets shrugged off the risk of conflict with stocks posting a third day of gains.

New South Korean President Park Geun-hye met foreign businessmen today and reassured them that the country was safe and that it was working closely with the United States and China, the North’s only major diplomatic ally. (Reuters)

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