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Thursday, April 14, 2016, 11:12

DPRK seen moving ballistic missiles: Yonhap

By Reuters

DPRK seen moving ballistic missiles: Yonhap

SEOUL - The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) has deployed one or two Musudan intermediate range ballistic missiles on the east coast, possibly preparing for launch around April 15, the birthday of the country's founder, the Republic of Korea's (ROK) Yonhap news agency reported on Thursday.

A mobile launcher was spotted carrying up to two Musudan missiles, Yonhap said citing multiple ROK government sources.

The Musudan missile, with a design range of more than 3,000 km is not known to have been flight-tested, according to ROK defence ministry and experts.

ROK's Defence Ministry spokesman, Moon Sang-gyun, declined to confirm the Yonhap report but said the military had been on high alert for any missile launch by the DPRK since its leader Kim Jong-un's vow to conduct more tests.

US intelligence believes DPRK's ability to reach the United States with an intercontinental ballistic missile is low, but its capabilities will increase, making continued investment in missile defense essential, US officials said on Wednesday.

DPRK has publicized a series of tests of its weapons technology since detonating its fourth nuclear bomb on Jan 6, showcasing its push to develop long-range nuclear missiles despite international sanctions.

Brian McKeon, US principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, told a U.S. Senate hearing that DPRK's nuclear and missile program posed a growing threat to the United States and its allies in East Asia.

He said DPRK was seeking to develop longer-range nuclear ballistic missiles capable of hitting the United States and was working to make its KN-08 road-mobile ICBM operational.

"Although the reliability of an untested North Korean (DPRK's) ICBM is likely to be very low, North Korea has used its Taepodong-2 launch vehicle to put a satellite into orbit, thus demonstrating ies applicable to a long-range missile," he said, referring to a DPRK rocket launch last month.

Admiral Bill Gortney, the officer responsible for defending US air space, told the same hearing that while U.S. intelligence assessments were that DPRK's ability to hit the United States was low, it was prudent to assume it had the capability.

Gortney said he agreed with an ROK assessment that DPRK was capable of putting a nuclear warhead on a medium-range missile that would reach all of ROK and most of Japan.

Gortney said the US ICBM assessment was based on the fact that no tests had been observed of such a missile.

On Saturday, DPRK said it had carried out a successful test of a new ICBM engine and there is an increasing feeling among international arms experts that the country's missile technology may be more advanced than previously thought.

A US government source told Reuters this week DPRK could have a primitive but operable ICBM "later this decade."

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