South Korea said its military remains vigilant against a possible missile launch by North Korea following media reports that Pyongyang might launch a ballistic missile before a planned visit to Seoul this week by U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.
Citing a South Korean government source, the Yonhap News Agency Monday reported North Korea has designated a no-sail and no-flight zone for its ships and aircraft off the east coast.
The news agency also said a mobile missile launcher loaded with Rodong, a ballistic missile with a range of 1,300 kilometers, has been partially spotted along the country’s east coast.
South Korea’s Defense Ministry said the communist country has not given notice of plans for a test launch.
“We have confirmed that North Korea has not notified our government or the International Maritime Organization of the no-sail and no-fly zone designation,” said Defense Ministry Vice Spokesman Na Seung-yong.
Regarding the report of the mobile missile launcher, Na said South Korea and the U.S. are watching North Korea’s military activities closely.
Some analysts in Seoul said Pyongyang could tie the timing of a missile launch to Carter’s visit or the April 15 birthday of the country’s founder, the late Kim Il Sung.
“Since a tentative nuclear deal was reached between the U.S. and Iran, North Korea could be [Washington's] next negotiating partner. The Rodong is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, and the North could test-fire the missile to demonstrate its will that it will never stop developing its nuclear program,” said Shin In-kyun, a military analyst with the Korea Defense Network.
Last week, North Korea fired five short-range ballistic missiles into the sea off its west coast, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Jee Abbey Lee contributed to this report, which was produced in collaboration with the VOA Korean service.