News / Asia

    US, S. Korea Remain on Heightened Alert

    A U.S. Army soldier gestures to a fellow solider as they participate in annual military drills in Yeoncheon, South Korea, near the border with North Korea, April 11, 2013.
    A U.S. Army soldier gestures to a fellow solider as they participate in annual military drills in Yeoncheon, South Korea, near the border with North Korea, April 11, 2013.
    U.S. and South Korean forces remain on heightened alert for a possible North Korean missile test that officials say could take place at any time. A Japanese news media report Thursday said North Korea appeared to be preparing to launch a missile.  But there has been no announcement from North Korea on any imminent launches.

    South Korea's ministry of national defense says it cannot confirm a report that a North Korean missile launcher has been observed in a “raised position.”

    Japan's Kyodo news agency issued such a dispatch, quoting a source in the Japanese defense ministry.

    In Seoul, Ministry of National Defense spokesman Kim Min-seok said it is anticipated that a firing of one or more missiles will occur before or around next Monday, the birth anniversary of North Korea's founder Kim Il Sung.  But he said little else about is known.

    "Nobody knows if North Korea is going to launch a missile, how many and whether it will head towards the east coast, the Philippines or our southern coast," said Kim.

    The South's defense ministry spokesman adds that he cannot confirm reports that North Korea is moving around its missile launcher vehicles to confuse intelligence monitoring and thwart South Korea and the United States from determining the precise moment of launch.

    Media reports say a pair of Musudan intermediate range ballistic missiles is being shuffled in and out of a shed in the port city of Wonsan, while up to five transport erector-launcher vehicles are moving around South Hamgyeong province.

    Before previous launches, North Korea notified mariners and commercial aviators of its intent to conduct missile tests. There have been no such announcements, so far, from Pyongyang. And, there have been no indications that the North has mobilized its large army.

    Other forces in the region remain on high alert, in case of any military provocation by North Korea.

    The U.S. Navy has two anti-missile destroyers in waters off the peninsula. It has also moved a sea-based 85-meter tall radar platform into position in the Pacific.

    South Korea's military has ships equipped with the advanced Aegis missile-tracking radar system. It also has deployed anti-missile Patriot class batteries and observation aircraft, as part of a coordinated effort to track and possibly shoot down any missile over the country.

    Japan has set up anti-missile PAC-3 batteries in various locations. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has ordered them to be used to intercept any missile that might cross over the country and destroy any falling debris from a multi-stage flight.

    Japan's chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, says Tokyo has told Pyongyang, via diplomatic channels, to halt its provocations.

    Suga says every possible measure is being taken to protect Japanese people's lives and ensure the country's security.

    • North Korean children hold up red scarves to be tied around their necks during an induction ceremony into the Korean Children's Union held at a stadium in Pyongyang, April 12, 2013.
    • Two military officers admire displays at a flower show featuring thousands of Kimilsungia flowers, named after the late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung, Pyongyang, April 12, 2013.
    • South Korean soldiers stand guard at an observation post near the demilitarized zone (DMZ) which separates the two Koreas in Paju, north of Seoul April 11, 2013.
    • Female North Korean soldiers patrol along the banks of Yalu River, near the North Korean town of Sinuiju, opposite the Chinese border city of Dandong, April 11, 2013.
    • A North Korean man blocks his face with his hand from being photographed as he and other residents take a ferry in Yalu River, near the North Korean town of Sinuiju, opposite the Chinese border city of Dandong, April 11, 2013.
    • People take part in an oath-taking before the statues of late North Korean leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il on Mansudae Hill in Pyongyang, April 10, 2013. (KCNA)
    • Anti-North Korean protesters release balloons with peace messages on the Grand Unification Bridge leading to the North near the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Paju, north of Seoul, April 10, 2013.
    • South Koreans arrive with their belongings from North Korea's Kaesong at the customs, immigration and quarantine office near the border village of Panmunjom, in Paju, north of Seoul, South Korea, April 9, 2013.
    • Visitors look at the industrial complex in Kaesong, North Korea, through binoculars at Dora Observation Post in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) near the border village of Panmunjom, in Paju, South Korea, April 9, 2013.
    • A South Korean military vehicle passes by gates leading to the North Korean city of Kaesong at the customs, immigration and quarantine office near the border village of Panmunjom, April 8, 2013.
    • An elementary school teacher orders her students to leave as they watch South Korean housewives denounce annual South Korean-U.S. military exercises, near the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, April 8, 2013.
    • South Korean army soldiers patrol along a barbed-wire fence near the border village of the Panmunjom, in Paju, South Korea, April 8, 2013.
    • North Korean military dogs run to a target with a portrait of South Korean Defence Minister Kim Kwan-jin during a military drill, April 6, 2013. (KCNA)

    For the first time, Thursday, North Korea's state media mentioned, by name, South Korea's president, who was inaugurated on February 25.

    A radio announcer, reading a dispatch from the Korean Central News Agency, says the “Park Geun-hye regime stands for confrontation” with North Korea, adding the “chief executive” in the South cannot shirk responsibility for the risk of failure of the Kaesong Industrial Zone.

    Hours later in Seoul, the cabinet minister in charge of relations with the North stepped before a microphone at the Ministry of Unification.

    Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae says “North Korea must favor discussion for issues that it wants to raise.”

    But when pressed on whether he was calling for two-way official talks, Ryoo explained "that rather than a proposal for dialog" his statement is intended as a pronouncement on the need for dialog to resolve outstanding problems, such as the Kaesong project and "North Korea's increasing threatening actions."

    This week, North Korea pulled its 53,000 workers out of the factory complex, the only remaining joint project between the two Koreas. It has refused to issue permits for South Korean managers and cargo trucks to enter the complex, last week.

    The high tension on the peninsula has prompted Taiwan to issue a travel alert to its citizens. Its foreign ministry is advising Taiwanese to delay travel to South Korea because the situation is “unclear.”

    A foreign ministry spokesman in Seoul told reporters Thursday there is no reason for anyone to avoid visiting South Korea.

    A North Korean peace committee, which is a government agency, issued an appeal this week to foreigners in South Korea that, in consideration for their own safety, they should leave the country.

    That appears to have been largely ignored by expatriates and tourists in South Korea.

    Last week, North Korea asked diplomats in Pyongyang to devise embassy evacuation plans by Wednesday, contending war could break out at any time.

    Steve Herman

    A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

    You May Like

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    Are US Schools Turning a Blind Eye to Radical Qatari Preachers?

    Parade of radical Islamist clerics using mosque at Qatar’s Education City draws mounting criticism for American universities that maintain satellite branches there

    Why Islamic State Is Down But Not Out

    Despite loss of territory, group’s ferocious attacks over past three months seen as testimony to its continued durability and resourcefulness

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Observer from: Southeastasia
    April 12, 2013 12:58 AM
    Seeing the panicky reactions of many people in South Korea and Japan, and their leaders, this young "demigod" and his generals have been laughing, eating, and sleeping bettter. They seem to act better than Hollywood actors.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora