PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — The prospect of a North Korean missile test is "considerably high," South Korea's foreign minister told lawmakers Wednesday as Pyongyang calmly prepared to mark the April 15 birthday of its founder, historically a time when it seeks to draw the world's attention with dramatic displays of military power.
The missile is expected to have a medium range, or about 3,500 kilometers (2,180 miles), which would allow it to fly over Japan, Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se told lawmakers in Seoul. Earlier, a Defense Ministry official said preparations appeared to be complete, and that the launch could take place at any time.
Yun said Seoul was bracing for the test-fire of a ballistic missile dubbed "Musudan" by foreign experts after the name of the northeastern village where North Korea has a launch pad. Experts said the Musudan is mainly designed to reach the U.S. territory of Guam though it can also place U.S. military installations in Japan in its striking range.
North Korean officials have not announced plans to launch a missile, but have told foreign diplomats in Pyongyang that they will not be able to guarantee their safety starting Wednesday. Officials also have urged tourists in South Korea to take cover, warning that a nuclear war is imminent. However, most diplomats and foreign residents appeared to be staying put.
The threats are largely seen as rhetoric and an attempt by North Korea to scare foreigners into pressing their governments to pressure Washington and Seoul to change their policies toward Pyongyang, as well as to boost the military credentials of North Korea's young leader, Kim Jong Un. North Korea does not have diplomatic relations with the U.S. and South Korea, its foes during the Korean War of the 1950s.