The Defense Ministry said Thursday that North Korea may launch a long-range missile on the occasion of a key anniversary next month as the North is seen as having completed the upgrade of a missile launch facility.
Speculation is rampant that North Korea is expected to launch a long-range missile around Oct. 10, the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party.
The ministry said in a report to the National Assembly that there is a possibility that the North could fire a missile to commemorate the anniversary as it is currently finishing construction at its rocket launch facility in Dongchang-ri on its west coast border.
In recent satellite imagery, a new 67-meter-tall gantry has been spotted on the site, which experts says can be used for the launch of long-range missiles twice the size of the 30-meter Unha-3 that was launched into orbit in December 2012.
Whether the North fires a long-range missile near the anniversary is under spotlight as the move will likely hamper the hard-won conciliatory mood on the Korean Peninsula.
South and North Korea reached a landmark deal on Aug. 25 to defuse military tension and make efforts to mend their long-frayed relations following the North’s land-mine blasts near the border in early August.
North Korea is under heavy sanctions by the United Nations Security Council for its nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches.
Defense Minister Han Min-koo told lawmakers that there has been no sign of a missile launch by the North so far.
Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se said the government does not exclude the possibility of North Korea’s long-range missile launch, given the unpredictability of the North’s regime.
“The government is closely watching related situations,” Yun said. “Seoul plans to drum up global support to encourage the North to sincerely implement the inter-Korean deal and to prevent it from making an additional provocation.” Read more