appeared to be gearing up Wednesday for another long-range missile test, the latest in a series of provocative acts seemingly aimed at stoking tensions with and winning the attention of the new U.S. president.
In recent weeks, Pyongyang has declared it will scrap peace agreements with Seoul and warned of war on the Korean peninsula. Reports that it could be preparing to test a missile capable of reaching the western United States have added to the anxiety.
By KELLY OLSEN, Associated Press Writer
A South Korean Army soldier walk by displays of models of mock North Korea’s Scud-B missile, right, and other South Korean missiles at Korea War Memorial Museum in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2009. North Korea has been moving equipment necessary for firing a missile to a launch pad, an indication that the country is taking steps toward conducting a test launch, a news report said Wednesday.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said Wednesday that a vehicle carrying radar equipment was seen moving to a launch site on the North’s eastern coast from a munitions factory near Pyongyang.
“It can be analyzed that the North is proceeding with a missile launch preparation in stages,” Yonhap quoted a South Korean government official it did not name as saying.
South Korean and Japanese media said last week that intelligence agents had spotted a train carrying a long, cylinder-shaped object — believed to be a long-range missile — to the launch site at Musudan-ni.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has played down reports of possible North Korean missile launch preparations, noting Tuesday that Pyongyang’s last such test in 2006 was a failure and that the U.S. could shoot down a North Korean missile “should we deem it necessary.”
Nevertheless, North Korea’s saber-rattling has been interpreted as an attempt to grab President Barack Obama’s attention; U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is scheduled to visit South Korea next week.
Obama has expressed willingness for direct talks with the North — including possibly meeting with leader Japan.. The stalled multi-national dialogue to disarm North Korea resumed late last year after the U.S. removed the country from its list of nations that sponsor terrorism. Those talks also involved China, Russia, South Korea and
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman warned Wednesday that North Korea’s actions could disrupt the disarmament process.
“I think activities of this nature, should they be taking place, would be harmful to the ongoing efforts, the diplomatic efforts within the,” Whitman said. “It’s always been our position that North Korea should refrain from provocative actions that might aggravate tensions in the region.”
The foreign ministers of South Korea and Japan said they were mindful about the possibility of another North Korean missile test.
“Both of us shared concerns about North Korea’s intentional acts of stoking tension … and urge North Korea to behave in a way that contributes to regional stability,” South Korean Foreign Minster Yu Myung-hwan said at a news conference in Seoul with his Japanese counterpart, .