SEOUL/WASHINGTON - The United States said it would soon send
a missile defense system to Guam to defend it from North Korea, as the US
military adjusts to what Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called a "real and clear
danger" from Pyongyang.
Hours later, South Korea's Yonhap news agency
said North Korea had moved what appeared to be a mid-range Musudan missile to
its east coast. It was not clear if the North planned to fire the rocket or was
just putting it on display as a show of force, one South Korean government
source was quoted as saying.
North Korea also barred entry to a joint
industrial complex it shares with the South for a second day on Thursday and
said it would shut the zone if Seoul continued to insult it.
the Korean peninsula have begun to unnerve global financial markets long used to
the rhetoric North Korea routinely hurls at Seoul and Washington.
assumption remains that this is more bluster ...," said Rob Ryan, a strategist
with RBS in Singapore. "But from here, we've reached a level of tensions that
say things can't get too much worse without an actual exchange of fire." The
broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down 0.6 percent,
dragged down by a 2 percent slump in South Korean shares, while the South Korean
won slid 0.7 percent against the US dollar.
US stocks sank on
Wednesday after Hagel's comments and the Guam deployment news.
Korea also repeated its threat to launch a nuclear attack on the United States.
Pyongyang said it had ratified a potential strike because of US military
deployments around the Korean peninsula that it claimed were a prelude to a
possible nuclear attack on the North.
Washington had been informed of the
potential attack by North Korea, a spokesman for its army said in a statement
carried by the English-language service of state news agency KCNA. It was
unclear how such a warning was given since North Korea does not have diplomatic
ties with Washington.
The report from KCNA appeared to re-state many of
the month-long fusillade of threats emanating from Pyongyang.
North Korea is years away from being able to hit the continental United States
with a nuclear weapon, despite having worked for decades to achieve nuclear-arms
North Korea has previously threatened a nuclear strike on the
United States and missile attacks on its Pacific bases, including in Guam, a
US territory in the Pacific.
Those threats followed new UN sanctions
imposed on the North after it carried out its third nuclear test in
"Some of the actions they've taken over the last few weeks
present a real and clear danger," Hagel told an audience at the National Defense
University in Washington.
Despite the rhetoric, Pyongyang has not taken
any military action and has shown no sign of preparing its 1.2 million-strong
armed forces for war, the White House said on Monday.
That indicates its
threats are partly intended for domestic consumption to bolster young leader Kim
Jong-un ahead of celebrations marking the anniversary of the April 15 birthday
of Kim Il-sung, the state's founder and the younger Kim's
Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the White House National
Security Council, criticised the latest North Korean statement.
yet another offering in a long line of provocative statements that only serve to
further isolate North Korea from the rest of the international community and
undermine its goal of economic development," Hayden said.Hagel: Take threats seriously
Hagel said he had to take the threats seriously, language he
has used in recent weeks as the United States has revamped its missile defence
plans and positioned two guided-missile destroyers in the western
The United States has also flexed its muscles during annual
military drills with South Korea, flying two radar-evading stealth bombers on a
first-of-its-kind practice bombing run over South Korea.
In the latest
move, the Pentagon said it was deploying a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense
(THAAD) system to Guam in the coming weeks. The THAAD system includes a
truck-mounted launcher, interceptor missiles and an AN/TPY-2 tracking
Last month, Hagel said the Pentagon would add 14 new anti-missile
interceptors in Alaska and move ahead with the deployment of a second
missile-defense radar in Japan.
Yonhap quoted multiple government sources
privy to intelligence from U.S. and South Korean authorities as saying North
Korea had moved what appeared to be a Musudan missile to its east
The missile is believed to have a range of 3,000 km (1,865 miles)
or more, which would put all of South Korea and Japan in range and possibly also
Guam. North Korea is not believed to have tested the Musudan mid-range missiles,
according to most independent experts South Korea's defense ministry declined to
The missile was moved to the coast by train. The North has a
missile launch site on its northeastern coast, which it has used to
unsuccessfully test-fire long-range rockets in the past.
report did not say if the missile had been moved to the missile site.
South Korean government said the North would allow 222 South Korean workers to
leave the Kaesong industrial zone on Thursday. That would leave another 606
South Koreans in the complex. Seoul has urged its citizens to get
North Korea has threatened to shut the complex, one of the
impoverished North's few sources of ready cash.
The industrial park, just
inside the border with North Korea, has not formally stopped operations since it
was inaugurated in 2000. It houses 123 companies and employs 50,000 North
Koreans making cheap goods such as clothing.