A North Korean flag is seen atop a 533-foot-tall tower in the village of Gijungdong,… (Lee Jin-man / Associated…)
South Korea has raised its military alert level and stepped up monitoring of North Korea, local news reports said Wednesday, amid indications that the Pyongyang regime could be preparing for a missile test.
Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se told South Korean lawmakers that there was a “considerably high” possibility that North Korea would launch a test missile after weeks of escalating threats, the Associated Press reported. The missile is believed to be capable of flying over Japan, he said.
Angered by the annual joint U.S.-South Korean military drills and a new round of United Nations sanctions, North Korea has threatened attacks, urged foreigners to evacuate from the North and the South and declared itself to be in a “state of war” with its neighbor.
U.S. and South Korean military officials have waved off much of the fiery talk from Pyongyang as unhelpful bluster, but say North Korea recently moved at least one intermediate-range missile to its east coast, a possible sign of an upcoming weapons test.
South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported that the U.S.-South Korean Combined Forces Command had raised its alert status from level 3 to level 2, indicating a "vital threat." But a South Korean defense official refused to confirm the report when questioned by the Associated Press.
The United States has said that it is prepared for a launch and can intercept a North Korean missile aimed at Japan, South Korea or the U.S. itself. Japan has also readied anti-missile defenses around Tokyo. Past North Korean missile tests have arced eastward over Japan or south toward the Philippines and landed in the sea, causing no damage or bloodshed.
Also Wednesday, South Korean officials announced that their investigations show that North Korea was behind a recent wave of cyber attacks that crashed computer systems at the country's banks and broadcasters last month. Pyongyang had been suspected from the start, but officials had held off on accusations until a probe was completed.
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