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(2nd LD) FM confirms N. Korea can launch mid-range missile 'at any time'
SEOUL, April 10 (Yonhap) -- Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se confirmed Wednesday that North Korea has moved a mid-range Musudan ballistic missile to its east coast and Pyongyang is prepared to launch the missile "at any time."

   "According to intelligence obtained by our side and the U.S., the possibility of a missile launch by North Korea is very high," Yun told a parliamentary hearing, adding that North Korea can launch the missile "at any time from now."

   Yun said, "The Musudan missile has a range of 3,500 kilometers and it's up to North Korea how far it would fly." The missile could hit the U.S. territory of Guam.

   Yun warned that the U.N. Security Council will be immediately convened if North Korea conducts a ballistic missile test because the North is banned from carrying out such test using a ballistic missile technology.

   During the parliamentary hearing, Yun said his government has asked China and Russia to help restrain North Korea from making military provocations as tensions on the Korean Peninsula mount over an expected mid-range missile launch by the North.

   "Throughout close coordination with China and Russia, the Korean government has been continuing to make efforts to persuade North Korea to change its attitude," Yun told lawmakers.

   Yun said the international community is united in coping with "North Korea's provocative threats, nuclear test and missile launch in a consistent and resolute manner."

   China is North Korea's last major ally and economic benefactor although the extent of Beijing's ability to rein in North Korea is unclear. Russia is a traditional ally of North Korea.

   Military officials have said North Korea could launch mobile ballistic missiles at any time. South Korean and U.S. troops upgraded Wednesday their alert status on North Korea to the next level as tensions are escalating.

   North Korea has unleashed a torrent of threats following U.N. sanctions that punished Pyongyang for conducting its third nuclear test on Feb. 12. Since then, the North has threatened to wage a nuclear strike against South Korea and the U.S., and temporarily suspended operations at the inter-Korean industrial park.

   U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will arrive in South Korea on Friday for talks with Yun.

   Yun said a "high-level coordination channel with the U.S. is now fully operational" to cope with any provocations from North Korea.

   On late Tuesday, Yun called on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to play an "active role" in helping defuse the acute tension on the Korean Peninsula.

   Yun made the remarks during a telephone conversation with Foreign Minister Prince Mohamed Bolkiah of Brunei, which serves as the chair of ASEAN, an official at Seoul's foreign ministry said.
During the telephone talks, Yun asked "Brunei, as the ASEAN chair, to play an active role in delivering a consistent message that North Korea will gain nothing from threats and provocations," the official said.

   South Korea "is dealing with the situation in a stable manner, while maintaining a strong deterrence against North Korea," Yun was quoted as telling Bolkiah.

   kdh@yna.co.kr
(END)
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