Sunday, April 7, 2013
While North Korea isn't backing away from threats of nuclear war, neighboring countries are taking precautionary measures for a possible missile test launch.
South Korea's presidential office told reporters Sunday that they take Pyongyang's surprise warning to foreign embassies and international organizations there to evacuate before April 10 as a sign that North Korea may test-fire its missile that day.
"We're thoroughly preparing for this, leaving all possibilities open," said Kim Jang-Soo, chief of the National Security Office, during a meeting at the presidential office, according to spokeswoman Kim Haing.
North Korean authorities had told diplomats that the United States wants war and they could not guarantee safety of international workers.
One or possibly two mid-range missiles have been moved to the eastern coast, but the exact location is not confirmed and difficult to track since it is mobile.
With a range of 1,800 miles, the missiles threaten all of Japan and the American military bases in Okinawa, Japan and possibly Guam.
On Saturday, a pro-North Korean website ran a two-minute video depicting a military attack on the White House and South Korea's president office.
The film was making a sarcastic shot at the latest Hollywood film "Olympus Has Fallen." It was posted on a Korean language website carrying news and information from Pyongyang.
The ongoing tense situation on the North Korean peninsula has led the top American general in South Korea and South Korea's top general to cancel long-planned trips to Washington this week.
On Sunday, Col. Amy Hannah, a U.S. Forces Korea spokesperson, said that Gen. James Thurman, the commander of U.S. and U.N. forces in South Korea, would not be traveling to Washington this week for previously scheduled congressional budget hearings.
"Given the current situation General Thurman will remain in Seoul next week as a prudent measure. He has asked the Senate Armed Services Committee," said the statement.
The statement says that Thurman had asked three congressional committees to " to excuse his absence until he can testify at a later date. He looks forward to appearing before the committee at the earliest possible date."
Earlier on Sunday it was announced that South Korea's top military officer was rescheduling a planned visit to Washington because he could not be away while North Korea was making bellicose threats.
South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Jung Seung-jo was to have visited the Pentagon on April 16 to meet with his American counterpart, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for regular consultative meetings.
To "avoid misperception or manipulation" by North Koreans, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has delayed a Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test scheduled for Tuesday at Vandenberg AFB in California.
The test has been long planned "and thus unconnected from the recent tensions with North Korea," an official told ABC News.
"We recognized that an ICBM test at this time might be misconstrued by some as suggesting that we were intending to exacerbate the current crisis with North Korea," the official said. "We wanted to avoid that misperception or manipulation.
"We are committed to testing our ICBMs to ensure a safe, secure, effective nuclear arsenal," the official said. "The test is being rescheduled, likely next month."
In Tokyo, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera is expected to give official orders to intercept any North Korean missiles if any are launched, local media Yomiuri and Kyodo reported.
But the orders will not be made publicly so as not to alarm the Japanese citizens. The ministry has deployed Aegis destroyers towards the Sea of Japan equipped with SM-3 interceptors.
Although China did not directly address North Korea, President Xi Jinping pledged his country will continue to "properly handle differences and frictions" with Asian nations.
He added that no country should throw a region and the world into chaos for selfish gains.
"Countries, whether big or small, strong or weak, rich or poor, should all contribute their share in maintaining and enhancing peace," Xi said during a keynote speech at the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) in Hainan, China.