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(LEAD) N. Korea believed to be ready for missile launch: Seoul's defense chief
SEOUL, April 15 (Yonhap) -- North Korea is believed to be ready for a missile launch, but there are no signs of the communist nation preparing to start a full-scale war, South Korea's defense minister said Monday.

   Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin made the remark during a parliamentary meeting, saying South Korea is keeping a close watch over North Korea based on an assessment that the country is ready to launch a missile.

   "As North Korea is believed to provoke at any time depending on its hostile rhetoric and the political and military situation on the Korean Peninsula, we are fully prepared (for an attack)," Kim said.

   However, Kim urged the North to change its attitude and accept Seoul's offer for dialogue in order to halt the standoff currently taking place on the Korean Peninsula.

   Kim also said the North is expected to stage a military parade on Monday, which marks the birthday of late North Korean founder Kim Il-sung, the grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-un. The national founder's birthday is one of the North's largest national holidays.

   As the North has yet to launch a provocative missile despite Seoul's prediction that it could fire off a Musudan intermediate missiles ahead of the anniversary of Kim's birthday, the defense ministry said the Korean Peninsula could enter into a prolonged missile crisis depending on political and diplomatic circumstances.

   "There were speculations that the North could fire off missiles after (April) 10," ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said in a briefing. "Five days have already passed, and it could be prolonged as there might be several conditions (that affect the decision)."

   Kim said it is unlikely for the North to fire off a missile on the day of the late founder's birthday, though he didn't exclude the possibility of a missile launch in the coming days.

   "The North is considered to be able to launch provocations at any time, and our military is closely monitoring the North Korean military's moves," Kim said. "If the North had injected fuel (into the missiles,) it can fire off the missiles any time if it makes that political decision."

   Satellite imagery last week detected mobile launchers for medium-range missiles in the eastern city of Wonsan and South Hamgyeong Province, while the North Korean military has not shown abnormal movement since last Thursday, according to intelligence officials.

   ejkim@yna.co.kr
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