SKorea expecting more NKorea missiles, 5th nuclear test

By Alex Jensen

SEOUL (AA) – South Korea’s defense ministry warned Friday that North Korea is expected to launch at least one more major provocation “in the short run”, after Pyongyang suffered the embarrassment of two failed missile tests a day earlier.

The North attempted to fire the pair of suspected medium-range Musudan missiles a little over 12 hours apart Thursday according to the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff — the authoritarian state also botched a launch involving the same kind of projectile April 15.

“Given that North Korea ventured to test two of its Musudan missiles after its previous failure, we cannot rule out the possibility of Pyongyang conducting more launches,” said defense ministry spokesperson Moon Sang-gyun at a briefing.

The Musudan model is believed to have a range of up to 4,000 kilometers and could theoretically pose a threat to the United States’ military based in Guam.

The North, however, appears to have been having technical difficulties with the model since parading it in Pyongyang in 2010.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may switch his focus to a follow-up of his country’s fourth ever nuclear test in January, especially as he is in line to play a key role in a first party congress in nearly four decades next week.

The gathering is seen as a chance for Kim to consolidate power by demonstrating the strength of his regime.

“It is highly likely that North Korea would venture a nuclear test in the short run,” local news agency Yonhap quoted Moon as saying. “The military is maintaining heightened surveillance and readiness.”

A fifth nuclear test would surely invite even greater international pressure following the imposition of new United Nations sanctions earlier this year — the UN Security Council already arranged a hasty meeting following Thursday’s failed missile launch attempts.

But another development could ease tensions on the peninsula, as South Korea and the U.S. are to wrap up their largest ever joint military drills this weekend.

The exercises — involving around 300,000 South Korean troops and 17,000 American counterparts — were likely the main motivating factor behind a series of aggressive North Korean statements and short-range missile tests over the last few weeks, given Pyongyang’s history of openly opposing Seoul and Washington’s military relationship.