U.S. President Barack Obama says the U.S. is taking defensive measures to counter "low-level" threats from North Korea.
"As we try to resolve the underlying problem of nuclear development inside of North Korea, we're also setting up a shield that can at least block the relatively low-level threats that they're posing now," Obama said in a CBS television interview that aired on Tuesday.
He said the issue of North Korea is "not something that lends itself to an easy solution." "We could, obviously, destroy North Korea with our arsenals. But aside from the humanitarian costs of that, they are right next door to our vital ally, Republic of Korea [South Korea]," Obama said.
Earlier Tuesday, South Korea's news agency reported North Korea is preparing a second launch of a new, powerful mid-range missile capable of reaching U.S. military installations in the Pacific. The Yonhap News Agency said it learned from an unidentified government official that South Korea's military "is picking up signs" that its northern neighbor will launch the missile "in the near future."
But a spokesman for South Korea's Defense Ministry said it could not confirm Yonhap's report.
North Korea's Musudan missile is a mobile land-based missile that was converted from an old Soviet submarine-launched ballistic missile. It has a range of anywhere between 3,000-4,000 kilometers, which puts the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam within reach.
North Korea test-launched the missile on April 15, the birthday of Kim Il Sung, the country’s first president and grandfather of current leader Kim Jong Un. South Korean and U.S. officials say the launch was a failure.
The North has been conducting a series of missile launches in recent weeks, in defiance of a new, stronger set of sanctions imposed by the United Nations over its fourth nuclear test in January. And South Korean President Park Geun-hye said recently there are indications North Korea is preparing to conduct a fifth nuclear test.
Analysts believe Kim Jong Un will try to use the test to cement his hold on power and enhance his image within the country as it prepares for a rare congress of the ruling Workers Party next month.