The Norman Transcript

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April 12, 2013

Saber rattling rhetoric

(Continued)

PYONGYANG, North Korea —

Officials in Seoul and Washington say Pyongyang appears to be preparing to test-fire a medium-range missile designed to be capable of reaching Guam. Foreign experts have dubbed the missile the “Musudan” after the northeastern village where North Korea has a launchpad, saying it has a range of 3,500 kilometers (2,180 miles).

Such a launch would violate U.N. Security Council resolutions prohibiting North Korea from nuclear and ballistic missile activity, and mark a major escalation in Pyongyang’s standoff with neighboring nations and the United States. North Korea already has been punished by new U.N. sanctions for the rocket launch and nuclear test.

Analysts do not believe North Korea will stage an attack similar to the one that started the Korean War in 1950. But there are concerns that the animosity could spark a skirmish that could escalate into a serious conflict.

“North Korea has been, with its bellicose rhetoric, with its actions ... skating very close to a dangerous line,” U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in Washington on Wednesday. “Their actions and their words have not helped defuse a combustible situation.”

Bracing for a launch that officials said could take place at any time, Seoul deployed three naval destroyers, an early warning surveillance aircraft and a land-based radar system, a Defense Ministry official said in Seoul, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with department rules. Japan deployed PAC-3 missile interceptors around Tokyo.

But officials in Seoul played down security fears, noting that no foreign government has evacuated its citizens from either Korean capital.

“North Korea has continuously issued provocative threats and made efforts to raise tension on the Korean peninsula ... but the current situation is being managed safely and our and foreign governments have been calmly responding,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young told reporters Thursday.

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