South Korea’s presidential office believes North Korea could test an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) as soon as Monday, local media reported, citing an unnamed source.
Tensions on the Korean peninsula have been rising amid growing signs that Pyongyang could soon follow through on its threats to restart testing ICBMs, breaking a self-imposed 2017 moratorium.
Outgoing President Moon Jae-in’s office has told President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol that a test launch was imminent and that it would not be a surprise if it took place on Monday, the Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported.
The comment was made as Moon’s national security advisor, Suh Hoon, briefed Yoon on Saturday about various foreign policy and security issues, the report said, citing an unnamed official at the president-elect’s office.
“It is so imminent that it would be no surprise if they fire it on Monday,” the report quoted Suh as saying. “We are taking the situation seriously.”
A spokesperson for Moon’s office said Suh had briefed Yoon on North Korea’s recent movements, including recent missile launches, and the Ukraine crisis, among other issues, but declined to comment on the Chosun Ilbo report.
Yoon spokesperson Kim Eun-hye told Reuters there could be various closed-door briefings for the president-elect but did not confirm details on security issues.
In a rare joint announcement, the United States and South Korea said on Friday that the North used its largest ever ICBM in two recent launches, under the guise of satellite launch preparations.
The missile system, known as the Hwasong-17, was unveiled at a military parade in Pyongyang in 2020 and reappeared at a defence exhibition in October 2021.
Yoon, who was elected president last week, had signalled a tougher line against Pyongyang. While staying open to restarting stalled denuclearisation talks, he has said pre-emptive strikes might be needed to counter an imminent North Korean missile attack, and vowed to buy additional U.S. THAAD missile interceptors.
Before the election, Yoon also warned of “even stronger pressure from the international community if North Korea fires an ICBM under colour of a satellite launch.”
He declined to make additional comment on Sunday.
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