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N. Korea finishes preparations for missile launch: Seoul officials
By Kim Eun-jung
SEOUL, April 9 (Yonhap) -- North Korea has completed preparations for a mid-range missile launch from its east coast, Seoul officials said Tuesday, as the country readies for what many suspect is another provocative act amid heightened tension on the Korean Peninsula.

   South Korean forces have been on high alert for an imminent missile launch by the communist nation, which was seen moving two Musudan missiles to its east coast last week and mounting them on mobile launchers.

   While Seoul officials believe there are high chances that Pyongyang could fire off a missile around April 15 to mark the birthday of late founding leader Kim Il-sung, current ruler Kim Jong-un's grandfather. Last year, the North unsuccessfully conducted a rocket launch days before the 100th anniversary of Kim's birth.

   "According to intelligence analysis of North Korea's missile movements, it is believed to have completed preparations for a launch," a senior military official said, asking for anonymity citing confidential information. "Technically, it can fire off (a missile) tomorrow."

   South Korean and U.S. intelligence officials have been closely monitoring the North Korean facility believed to contain the Musudan missiles on the TELs (transporter-erector-launcher). The missile can fly 3,000-4,000 kilometers and is capable of hitting the U.S. base in Guam in the Pacific Ocean.

   Although it is difficult to assess the isolated regime's intention behind the provocative action, Seoul officials say it is seen as aimed at cementing the Pyongyang regime's power and seeking a breakthrough in the stalemate with Seoul and Washington.

   "North Korea seems to use military provocations, like mid-range missile launch, as a means to build domestic unity and pressure South Korea and the U.S.," Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said.

   To track the missile's trajectory, two Aegis destroyers with SPY-1 radar, which can track hundreds of targets as far as 1,000 kilometers away, have been on standby on the east and west coasts of the Korean Peninsula.

   The South Korean military is also operating the ground-based missile defense radar system Green Pine, and the early warning aircraft Peace Eye under a stepped up military readiness status to prepare for a potential rocket launch, according to military officials.

   Japan said Tuesday that it has deployed PAC-3 missile interceptors to key locations around Tokyo.

   ejkim@yna.co.kr
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