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N. Korea Could Be Planning Launch, U.S. Official Says

Posted at 12:52 PM, Apr 04, 2013
and last updated 2013-04-04 12:53:27-04

USMC Missile(CNN) — Missile and launch components have been moved to the east coast of North Korea in the “last few days,” a U.S. official with direct knowledge of the information told CNN on Thursday.

This comes as indications emerged that North Korea, which unleashed another round of scathing rhetoric accusing the United States of pushing the region to the “brink of war,” could be planning a missile launch soon.

The components, the official said, are consistent with those of a Musudan missile, which has a 2,500-mile range, meaning it could threaten South Korea, Japan and Southeast Asia.

The United States has been looking for a hidden North Korean east coast launch site or mobile launchers, a concern because a launch from the east coast would go over Japan, the official said.

It is believed a missile launch would be a “test” launch rather than a targeted strike. That is because it appears the North Koreans have only moved the components so far. The United States is waiting to see whether North Korea issues a notice to its airmen and mariners to stay out of the region.

Communication intercepts in recent days also seem to show that Pyongyang could be planning to launch a mobile ballistic missile in the coming days or weeks, another U.S. official said.

Earlier, South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin told a parliamentary committee in Seoul that the North has moved a medium-range missile to its east coast for an imminent test firing or military drill.

The missile doesn’t appear to be aimed at the U.S. mainland, Kim said, according to the semi-official South Korean news agency Yonhap.

Wednesday, the United States announced it was sending ballistic missile defenses to Guam, a Western Pacific territory that is home to U.S. naval and air bases. North Korea has cited those bases when listing possible targets for missile attacks.

The latest developments come amid the disclosure of what one U.S. official calls an Obama administration “playbook” of pre-scripted actions and responses to the last several weeks of North Korean rhetoric and provocations.