North Korea Said To Be Ready For Missile Test Any Day

6:26 AM, Apr 10, 2013   |    comments
The replica of North Korea's Scud missile and a decommissioned South Korean missile stand side by side at a war museum against the background of Mount Namsan in Seoul on April 10, 2013. South Korean and US forces raised their alert status to 'vital threat' ahead of an expected North Korean missile test, with tensions wound tight during a five-day buildup to a key anniversary (KIM JAE-HWAN/AFP/Getty Images)
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PYONGYANG, North Korea (CBS NEWS) -- North Korea has completed preparations for a missile test that could come any day, a South Korean Defense Ministry official said as Pyongyang prepared to mark the April 15 birthday of its founder, historically a time when it seeks to draw the world's attention with dramatic displays of military power.

In Pyongyang, however, the focus Wednesday was less on preparing for war and more on beautifying the city ahead of the nation's biggest holiday. Soldiers hammered away on construction projects, gardeners got down on their knees to plant flowers and trees, and students marched off to school, belying a sense that tensions on the Korean Peninsula have reached their highest point since the Korean War ended nearly 60 years ago.

In Seoul, officials said Wednesday that North Korea was responsible for a cyber attack that shut down tens of thousands of computers and servers at South Korean broadcasters and banks last month, adding that an initial investigation pointed to a military-run spy agency as the culprit.

Investigators detected similarities between the March cyberattack and past hacking attributed to the North Korean spy agency, including the recycling of 30 previously used malware programs out of a total of 76 used in the attack, said Chun Kil-soo, an official at South Korea's internet security agency.

He said the attack appeared to have been planned for about eight months.

"We saw evidence that the attack was extremely carefully prepared," Chun said at a news briefing.

Also Wednesday, some Chinese travel agencies said they have cancelled tours to North Korea due to safety concerns as Pyongyang continues its war-like posturing. However, other Chinese operators say they still plan to take tourists in to the country.

North Korea has warned foreign companies and tourists to leave South Korea due to the threat of war and it has advised foreign diplomats in Pyongyang that it can't guarantee their safety past Wednesday.

A woman who refused to identify herself at the Explore North Korea travel agency in the border city of Dandong said group tourism had been suspended beginning Wednesday. She said they had received a notification from the National Tourism Administration warning against tourism to North Korea.

An official at the administration refused to comment.

China is the isolated Pyongyang regime's main ally.

Pyongyang was relatively quiet Wednesday amid the holiday preparations. Last year, the days surrounding the centennial of the birth of Kim Il Sung, grandfather of the current North Korean ruler, were marked by parades of tanks, goose-stepping soldiers and missiles, as well as the failed launch of a satellite-carrying rocket widely believed by the U.S. and its allies in the West to be a test of ballistic missile capabilities. A subsequent test in December went off successfully, and that was followed by the country's third underground nuclear test on Feb. 12 this year, a step toward mastering the technology for mounting an atomic bomb on a missile.

The resulting U.N. sanctions have been met with an unending string of threats and provocations from the North, raising tensions on the peninsula to their highest point since the end of the Korean War in 1953, according to some experts.

The moves are seen as an attempt by North Korea to scare foreigners into pressing their governments to pressure Washington and Seoul to avert a conflict, and boost the militaristic credentials of its young and relatively untested leader, Kim Jong Un.

Despite Pyongyang's advising foreign embassies to consider evacuating their citizens by Wednesday and warning tourists in South Korea to leave Seoul in case of an outbreak of war, most diplomats and foreign residents appeared to be staying put.

In Seoul, the defense ministry official said the North appeared prepared to carry out a missile launch at any time. He spoke on condition of anonymity, saying he wasn't authorized to speak to the media.

He said Pyongyang's military is capable of conducting multiple missile launches involving Scud and medium-range Rodong missiles, as well as a missile transported to the east coast recently. He refused to say how Seoul obtained the information.

Adm. Samuel Locklear, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington on Tuesday that he concurred with an assessment by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., calling the tension between North Korea and the West the worst since the end of the Korean War.

"The continued advancement of the North's nuclear and missile programs, its conventional force posture, and its willingness to resort to asymmetric actions as a tool of coercive diplomacy creates an environment marked by the potential for miscalculation," Locklear told the panel.

He said the U.S. military and its allies would be ready if North Korea tries to strike.

Despite such tidings of war, the people of Pyongyang went about their daily lives.


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