Seoul: North Korea is showing signs of attempting to conduct a new ballistic missile launch, according to reports. Unidentified sources said there were indications of a possible launch, Japanese media outlets, including Kyodo and public broadcaster NHK, reported.
South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency, citing an unnamed government source, said North Korea appeared to have moved an intermediate-range Musudan missile to its east coast, but there appeared to be no signs of an imminent launch.
North Korea is understood to have failed all four previous attempts to test fire a Musudan missile, which has an estimated range between 2,500 and 4,000km (1,550 to 2,500 miles).
It failed three attempts in April and another in May.
Japan’s military remains on high alert, a government source told Reuters. Local media reported that Japan’s navy and anti-missile batteries have been ordered to shoot down any projectile heading for its territory.
If confirmed, it would be North Korea’s latest attempt to intimidate its neighbours with its ongoing nuclear weapons programme said to have the ultimate aim of developing a missile that could reach the US.
North Korean missiles have flown over Japanese territory in the past, and Japan’s government has deployed the anti-missile batteries in Tokyo and other parts of the country in response.
Defence officials in Tokyo declined to comment on the latest reports, but did not deny them.
A South Korean defence ministry official told Reuters it could not confirm the reports, but said its military was watching the North’s activities closely.
Relations between Pyongyang, its neighbours and the West have worsened following the isolated state’s repeated nuclear tests and long-range rocket launches.
In January, the White House cast doubt on North Korea’s claim to have conducted its first “successful” test of a miniature hydrogen bomb.
Pyongyang said the detonation was a “historic” event, but White House press secretary Josh Earnest said US analysis was “not consistent” with the claim.