In its latest show of brinkmanship, North Korea appears to be preparing for a fourth nuclear test, and may launch a missile on Wednesday, according to South Korean officials.
According to Sangwon Yoon, a Bloomberg News reporter based in Seoul, South Korea’s defense ministry said the North has been ready to conduct this test at a site in Punggye-ri since February, when they conducted a previous nuclear test.
North Korea may also be preparing to launch a missile with a range under 2,000 miles on Wednesday, an unnamed military official told a South Korean newspaper.
From the New York Times:
South Korea’s national security director said Sunday that the North this week might launch one of its new Musudan missiles, a modified version of a missile Russia used for decades aboard its submarines. If so, Pentagon officials said they would be ready to calculate its trajectory within seconds and try to shoot it down if it appeared headed toward impact in South Korea, Japan or Guam, an American territory. But they planned to do nothing if it were headed toward open water, even if it went over Japan, as one previous North Korean test did.
The officials doubted that the North’s new leader, Kim Jung-un, would risk aiming the missile at the United States or its allies.
From South Korea’s JoongAng Daily:
The chief of National Security, Kim [Jang-soo], also said he assumes the series of provocative messages from North Korea are psychological warfare to sway public opinion in the South.
“North Korea is issuing headline-grabbing messages every day,” Kim said. “We judge this is to sway public opinion of our people and escalate anxiety about national security, in order to switch the current administration’s policies regarding North Korean affairs [in favor of the regime].”
At a briefing on Sunday, a spokeswoman for South Korean President Park Geun-hye told reporters the country is thoroughly prepared to defend against a missile attack, but did not rule out that the threat could be “merely rhetoric.”