Is North Korea preparing to test a missile?

The regime said on Thursday that it has "final approval" to launch "merciless" military assaults against the U.S.

Published April 4, 2013 7:51PM (EDT)

Kim Jong-un                  (AP/KCNA via KNS)
Kim Jong-un (AP/KCNA via KNS)

This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

Global Post South Korean media are reporting that Korean and US intelligence satellites have spotted North Korea moving what appears to be medium-range ballistic missiles to its east coast. Meanwhile, the regime said on Thursday that it has the "final approval" to launch "merciless" military assaults against the US, including the use of nuclear weapons.

But a missile attack isn't as likely as you'd think, despite the war rhetoric.

Analysts here in Seoul seem to agree that, if the press reports are true, the pariah state is probably prepping a test of the medium-range BM-25 Musudan missile. The device could, in theory, reach US bases in Japan and Guam.

Or could it be a symbolic commemoration?

The South Korean wire service Yonhap speculates that the launch could come on or around April 15, which is the 101st birthday of the nation's deceased founding father, Kim Il Sung.

The timing would have a precedent. Late last year, North Korea launched the Unha-3 rocket -- putting a satellite into orbit -- within days of the late Kim Jong-il's birthday on December 16.

The other missile reportedly on a train to the coast, the long-range KN-08 (which North Korea calls the Hwasong-13), may not be ready for deployment and could rather be a showy spectacle. Some even question whether this missile exists: when it first appeared at a military parade last year, experts said the technology looked like a mock-up.

Worth noting: the South Korean defense minister has disputed media reports that the KN-08 is being sent to the East Sea. But no denial of medium-range Musudan rockets yet.

By Geoffrey Cain

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