Wednesday, October 8, 2008

NKorea prepares mass missile launches: reports

North Korea is preparing up to 10 more short-range missiles for a mass test-launch, South Korean news reports said Thursday, two days after the North fired at least one missile into the sea.

Chosun Ilbo newspaper, quoting a government source, said a US satellite had spotted the North readying about 10 short-range missiles for launch from Chodo, an island navy base off the west coast.

The source said the military is preparing KN-01 surface-to-ship and Styx ship-to-ship missiles for launching from Chodo and its surroundings into the Yellow Sea.

"If North Korea fires missiles en masse, it can hardly be part of a routine exercise. Its intentions should be analysed in various ways," the source said.

South Korean intelligence authorities think North Korea may fire "more than five" of the missiles, Chosun said.

North Korea has banned shipping from sailing near Chodo until October 15, it added.

Seoul's Yonhap news agency also reported plans to fire up to 10 missiles and the declaration of an exclusion zone.

Neither the defence ministry nor the Joint Chiefs of Staff office in Seoul would comment on the reports.

The North fired up to two short-range missiles into the Yellow Sea from Chodo on Tuesday in what Seoul officials described as "routine military exercises."

The North has carried out such short-range missile tests many times before. Seoul describes them as part of customary drills but analysts say they are sometimes timed to make a political point.

Friday is the anniversary of the North's ruling communist party. Analysts are closely watching the event to see if top leader Kim Jong-Il, who reportedly suffered a stroke in August, will appear.

And a six-nation nuclear disarmament agreement is deadlocked because of a dispute over verification of the North's nuclear program

No comments: