Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sources: North Korea halts missile launch preparations

North Korea has stopped work on preparing for the launch of a medium-range Musudan ballistic missile, according to government sources in Japan, the United States and South Korea.
Although the U.S. military has also temporarily eased back from being on high alert, the three nations will continue to keep a wary eye on Pyongyang as it is deemed likely that it will continue with its provocative actions in the medium to long term.
The sources said that from about April 20, intelligence units have been unable to intercept radio signals that North Korea had been transmitting on a test basis in preparing for a missile launch. The signals include telemetry signals transmitted by the Musudan missiles to ground bases that would track its course, as well as radar waves used for communications control within the ground base.
In early April, North Korea deployed two Musudan missiles to bases north of Wonsan in Kangwon province facing the Sea of Japan. Work was conducted on a daily basis to check that communications between the Musudan and ground bases, as well as the control and radar systems within the base, were operating sufficiently.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy's Observation Island ship, which tracks ballistic missiles, returned to Sasebo Naval Base in Nagasaki on April 26. The ship, with a displacement of 17,015 tons, had been deployed to the Sea of Japan until mid-April to prepare for a possible ballistic missile launch by North Korea. The ship appears to have temporarily relaxed its surveillance activities after confirmation was made that North Korea had stopped its launch preparation work.
However, the two Musudan missiles are still at the bases. Seven additional missiles, including the medium-range Rodong and short-range Scud, are also deployed in South Hamgyong province.
Even after the joint military exercise between the United States and South Korea concludes on April 30, North Korea will likely continue to monitor the test-launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile by the United States. Washington has delayed that launch until May.

There is a strong possibility that Pyongyang will continue to keep the nine ballistic missiles in place to serve as a deterrent against the U.S. military.
With July 27 marking the 60th anniversary of the Korean War cease-fire, North Korea has also begun preparations for a military parade to be held that day.
Officials of Japan, the United States and South Korea continue to be concerned that North Korea could engage in provocative action, including a missile launch or a fourth nuclear test, in the run-up to the July anniversary.
The three nations will likely maintain their ability to intercept ballistic missiles with Aegis destroyers and the surface-to-air Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missiles.

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