N. Korea loads two medium-range missiles on mobile launchers

South Korea unveils new cruise missileNorth Korea has loaded two intermediate-range missiles onto mobile launchers and hidden them in an unidentified facility near the east coast, Seoul military sources said Friday, triggering speculation that the North is ready for an abrupt missile launch.

Earlier this week, the communist state had moved the “Musudan” medium-range missiles to its east coast, prompting the United States to send its advanced missile defense system to its base on the Pacific Ocean island of Guam.

South Korea has also sent its Aegis destroyers equipped with advanced radar systems to the East and West Seas.

South Korean and U.S. intelligence officials have been closely monitoring the North Korean facility believed to contain the Musudan missiles on the TELs (transporter-erector-launcher). The missile can fly 3,000-4,000 kilometers and is capable of hitting the U.S. base in Guam in the Pacific Ocean.

“Early this week, the North has moved two Musudan missiles on the train and placed them on mobile launchers,” a senior military official familiar with the knowledge of the matter said.

The North’s concealing the missiles atop the mobile launcher platform is seen as an attempt to launch missiles in a surprise move, the official said, noting it was not clear whether the move is for a test firing or military drills.

The isolated communist nation has not yet conducted a test firing of the Musudan missile, which was first revealed to the international community in October 2010 during a military parade in Pyongyang.

On Thursday, CNN reported classified images and communications intercepts showing that North Korea has moved two mobile missiles, launchers and fuel tanks to its east coast, citing an anonymous American official.

In response to the North’s military move, South Korea has sent two Aegis destroyers equipped with advanced radar systems to both of its coasts, Navy officials said.

The 7,600-ton Aegis destroyers with SPY-1 radar, which can track hundreds of targets as far as 1,000 kilometers away, have been on standby on the east and west coasts of the Korean Peninsula to track missile launches by Pyongyang, according to a senior Navy official.

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