Ship movements signal possible North Korea missile test
SEOUL – Chinese fishing vessels have moved out of waters near a disputed sea border between the two Koreas, a South Korean military official said on Wednesday, which could signal a North Korean missile test is imminent.
North Korea usually orders its vessels to stay out of Yellow Sea waters off its west coast when it conducts short-range missile tests. China is the closest thing the North can claim as a major ally and is the impoverished state's biggest benefactor.
"The (Chinese) fishing boats have disappeared, but no other unusual moves have yet been detected," said an official with South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff who asked not to be named. The official would not comment on a possible missile test.
During its last test launch of short-range missiles in that area in October 2008, the North issued a no-sail order to its ships a few days before firing off missiles, South Korean government officials have said.
Impoverished North Korea, angry at the hard-line policies of the South's government, in recent weeks has stepped up tension by threatening to reduce its wealthy neighbor to ashes and making moves to test fire its longest-range missile.
Analysts said the steps were aimed at putting pressure on the South and at attracting the notice of new US President Barack Obama, who is sending Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the region next week to discuss regional security concerns.
"We are hopeful that some of the behavior that we have seen coming from North Korea in the last few weeks is not a precursor of any action that would up the ante or threaten the stability and peace and security of the neighbors in the region," Clinton said at a new conference in Washington on Tuesday.
It takes weeks for North Korea to prepare a launch of its Taepodong-2 missile, which has never successfully flown but is eventually supposed to be able to hit US territory. It was last fired in 2006, fizzling less than a minute after launch.
The US military stepped up its monitoring of North Korea this week amid concerns of possible missile launches, a US military official said.
The North can easily test-fire short-range missiles, with South Korean government officials telling a leading local daily they suspect such a test may take place soon near the disputed naval border called the Northern Limit Line (NLL).
The NLL was set unilaterally by UN-led forces at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War and the North has said it is illegal. The area was the site of deadly naval clashes between the two Koreas in 1999 and 2002.
The foreign ministers of South Korea and Japan issued a statement after meeting in Seoul calling on North Korea to stop its provocations.
"The two shared the perception that it is undesirable for North Korea to create tension with hard-line comments and urged the North to act in a manner that would contribute to regional stability," their joint statement said.
There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)