Reports of Pyongyang's next missile test stokes tensions in South Korea

Military in the South is in ‘readiness’ amid fears of new weapons launch by the North this week

Seoul

Movement around an atomic test site in North Korea indicates the reclusive state may stage another nuclear test, a South Korean minister said today, as one of its military leaders postponed a trip to Washington DC because of the escalating security situation in the region

The warning from South Korea's Unification Minister, Ryoo Kihi-jae, came after Pyongyang moved a missile battery to the east coast last week after repeatedly threatening a strike on US targets in Guam, Hawaii and even the west coast of America. The relocated missile is thought to be a Musudan, which has a range of more than 3,000km, putting Guam within reach.

General Jung Seung-jo, chairman of South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff, said he had delayed a meeting with his opposite number in America, General Martin Dempsey, as he wished to remain in South Korea while tensions were high. The news came as the US postponed a test of its own long-range ballistic missile, due to be launched from California, for fear of inflaming the crisis still further. US reports said the Defence Secretary, Chuck Hagel, had delayed the Minuteman 3 test until “some time next month”, but joint war drills with the South Korean military near the border with the North would continue.

With the West continuing to press Beijing to use its political leverage against Pyongyang, the Chinese President Xi Jinping appeared to take a swipe at both sides.  Speaking in front of world leaders at a forum in southern China, Mr Xi said “no one should be allowed to throw the region, or the whole world, into chaos for selfish gains”.

Most observers believe Pyongyang’s fierce rhetorical barrage since last week is a political power-play by the government of Kim Jong-un, mainly for domestic consumption, but few are ruling out the possibility of events spinning out of control. British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, became the latest politician to call for calm, pleading with Mr Kim’s regime to pull in its horns. “We have to be concerned about the danger of miscalculation by the North Korean regime,” he said. The Cuban leader Fidel Castro, a friend of the Pyongyang regime, recently described the face-off as one of the “gravest risks” for nuclear war since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.

Seoul has continued to play down the threat of war, but in a sign that it is taking nothing for granted, the Defence Minister, Kim Kwan-jin, has recommended withdrawing South Korean workers from the Kaesong industrial complex across the border.

The jointly run complex is the last remaining lifeline between the two sides and an important source of income for Pyongyang. “If any North Korean provocation were followed by retaliation, the workers could be held hostage,” Mr Kim said.  About 120 South Korean firms operate in the complex and 500 nationals are reportedly inside. Last week North Korea closed the border to Kaesong.

Yesterday, the South’s government predicted the North could test a missile this week, ahead of a visit by US Secretary of State, John Kerry, on Friday. A spokeswoman for the government, Kim Haeng, said the South’s military was in “readiness” mode. The North is likely to use America’s cancellation of its Minuteman 3 test for propaganda purposes, arguing Washington blinked first. But the crisis is unlikely to end there. “The show of strength and ambitions will continue until someone pushes a wrong button,” said Leonid Petrov, a Korea expert at the Australian National University.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory