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 Tensions rise along the land, sea border with South Korea

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PostSubject: Tensions rise along the land, sea border with South Korea   Thu Jun 04, 2009 1:04 am

Thursday, June 04, 2009


PANMUNJOM, South Korea: North Korea appears to have begun assembling a missile believed capable of striking US soil, a report said on Wednesday as tensions rose along the land and sea border with the South.

The communist regime of ailing North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il has defied international criticism of its second nuclear test by firing a volley of short-range missiles and threatening to attack the capitalist South.

It is now said to be preparing to test-launch an intercontinental ballistic missile as well as several medium-range missiles. The North is believed to have started putting together a long-range missile that may be a modified version of the Taepodong-2 which it fired over Japan in April, South Korea’s Joong Ang Ilbo daily reported on Wednesday.

Although the missile is being kept under covers, “the length of its propulsion rocket seems to be longer than the last one fired in April although its shape looks similar,” it quoted a government source as saying. The North said its last long-range rocket launch on April 5 was to put a satellite into orbit. The United States and its allies said it was really a test of the Taepodong-2, which could theoretically reach Alaska at maximum range.

“After carrying out a missile test, it usually takes at least six months to adjust defects and prepare to fire another one,” said an unnamed military official quoted by the Joong Ang Ilbo. “Now, the North is preparing to do it again after just two months. It seems the North is in quite a hurry.”

Analysts believe Kim is trying to bolster his authority so he can put in place a succession plan reportedly involving his third son, 26-year-old Kim Jong-Un.

South Korean and US forces on the peninsula are on heightened alert after the North warned of a possible attack in response to Seoul’s decision to join a US-led initiative to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

The situation is tense along the heavily fortified land border, where North and South Korean troops eye each other warily from either side of the demarcation line.

In the village of Panmunjom inside the Joint Security Area, where the truce that ended the Korean War was signed in 1953, visitors from the South were told Wednesday to do nothing that might provoke the other side.

“The possibility of armed provocation from the northern side is higher than ever in the Joint Security Area,” said Corporal Yoo Hyun-Woo. “So please do not point or make any gestures toward the North Koreans.” The North is also reported to have stepped up naval drills near the western sea border, the site of deadly clashes between the two Koreas in 1999 and 2002.

South Korea Tuesday sent a high-speed navy patrol boat armed with guided missiles to the area and vowed to “punish” any attacking forces.

The South’s air force also said in a statement it will “promptly and sternly” respond with fighter jets if the North attempts another sea attack. Air forces were not involved in the previous naval clashes. US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg met South Korean officials Wednesday to discuss ways to take North Korea to task for its nuclear test.
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