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N. Korea ready to fire medium-range Nodong missiles: military source

2015/03/03 14:12

SEOUL, March 3 (Yonhap) -- North Korea appears prepared to fire medium-range Nodong ballistic missiles amid heightened inter-Korean tensions over the ongoing South Korea-U.S. military exercises, a source here said Tuesday.

On Monday, Pyongyang fired two short-range missiles into the East Sea in an apparent protest against the start of the annual Key Resolve and Foal Eagle drills.

"We've detected signs that North Korea has deployed two transporter erector launchers (TELs) since a few days back in its Nodong missile station in North Pyongan Province," the military source said on condition of anonymity. "We are closely monitoring their movements bearing in mind chances of their actual launches."

   North Korea last fired two Nodong missiles in March last year using the launchers, the first launch in nearly five years.

The single-stage ballistic missile has an estimated range of 1,300 kilometers with a payload capacity of 700 kilograms, according to South Korea and the U.S. intelligence.

"It would not be easy for us to detect missiles in a swift manner in case they are fired from a mobile launcher," said a military officer, saying the authorities have been operating the crisis management system against possible military provocations by the communist country.

During a press briefing, defense ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said the military "has been closely watching North Korea for possible additional rocket launches," without further elaboration.

The two-week war game Key Resolve mobilizes some 10,000 South Korean and 8,600 American troops, while the field training exercise Foal Eagle, scheduled to run till April 24, involves a set of land, sea and air maneuvers by 200,000 Korean and 3,700 American troops.

The North has ratcheted up tensions further on the peninsula by continuing pledges to "retaliate" against "the hostile forces," while Seoul and Washington have vowed to stage the drills as scheduled stressing their non-provocative nature.

Nodong missiles (Yonhap file photo) Nodong missiles (Yonhap file photo)

graceoh@yna.co.kr

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