By Kim Eun-jung
SEOUL, April 21 (Yonhap) -- North Korea has recently moved two additional missile launchers believed to be for Scud missiles to its east coast, a military source familiar with the matter said Sunday, in yet another sign of preparations for a missile launch at a volatile time on the Korean Peninsula.
According to intelligence authorities, the North in early April moved two mid-range Musudan missiles to Wonsan, and placed seven mobile missile transporter-erector-launchers (TEL) in Wonsan and South Hamgyeong Province at its eastern coast.
Coupled with warning diplomats in Pyongyang to leave in case of war, the missiles fueled speculation of a possible launch before the April 15 celebrations of the 101st anniversary of the birth of late founder Kim Il-sung. But Seoul's defense ministry said the North Korean armed forces have not made any uncommon movements as of late.
However, satellite imagery released after April 16 showed that two additional TELs for shorter-range Scud missiles were moved to South Hamgyeong Province, a military source said, asking for anonymity citing confidential information, fueling questions over the North's true intention.
"The military is closely watching the North's latest preparations for a missile launch," the source said.
As Pyongyang celebrated the birthday of the current ruler Kim Jong-un's grandfather only with cultural events, military officials in Seoul believe the belligerent country could stage a show of force, such as a missile launch or a military parade, during the anniversary of the birth of the Korean People's Army, which falls on April 25.
On Thursday, Chief of National Security Kim Jang-soo told lawmakers that North Korea has shown no signs of preparing or is not even capable of conducting a full-scale war on the Korean Peninsula. But he said the communist nation can still carry out localized provocations at any time, including launches of shorter-range missiles, such as Scuds with a range of 300-500 km or KN-02s with a range of 120-160 km.
Seoul's Defense Ministry has reiterated Kim's remarks that the North is ready to fire at least one missile at any time and that the South is prepared to deal with any contingency.
Military officials still remain on high alert as the North Korean military's March 26 order that put the strategic rocket forces and artillery units on the highest level of combat readiness posture has yet to be lifted, another source said.
"As long as this order remains in place, there are possibilities that the North could fire off a missile," the source spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The North's latest move comes after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made a conditional overture in his April 12 visit to Seoul as part of his Asian trip in which he said Washington will not talk with Pyongyang unless it takes tangible steps to eventually abandon its nuclear weapons program.
U.S. President Barack Obama said in an interview broadcast Tuesday that his government will not "reward" the kind of provocative behavior exhibited by the inexperience North Korean leader, and he did not believe that the communist nation has the ability to miniaturize a nuclear weapon to fit atop a missile.
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