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(LEAD) N. Korea readying another mid-range ballistic missile launch: sources

All Headlines 12:13 April 26, 2016

(ATTN: UPDATES with more info from 7th para)

SEOUL, April 26 (Yonhap) -- North Korea appears to be readying to test-launch another intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) after the country botched its first attempt earlier in the month, government sources said Tuesday.

North Korea was initially detected to have loaded one or two IRBMs, known as Musudan, on the transporter erector launcher, near the country's eastern port city of Wonsan, earlier in the month.

On April 15, one of the missiles was test-fired but reportedly blew up only a few seconds after lifting off.

"Signs have been detected that North Korea is trying to launch another Musudan missile after their failed launch that took place earlier on the birthday of (North Korean founder) Kim Il-sung," one government source said.

"The remaining missile appears to be standing by for launch," the source noted.

Another source added, "The military is picking up signs which indicate North Korea will likely launch the Musudan missile in the near future, and they are keeping close tabs on that."

The April 15 launch was North Korea's first test of a Musudan missile, which the North is believed to have deployed since 2007. The North has reportedly deployed some 30 Musudan missiles.

With a targeted range of 3,000-4,000 kilometers, the IRBM is designed to reach as far as Guam, where United States military forces are stationed.

If another Musudan missile is launched it will cause a spike in tensions as North Korea prepares to hold the first congress of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea in more than 30 years in early May.

This is particularly true since South Korea is bracing itself for the possibility of North Korea carrying out a fifth nuclear test in the near future.

Commenting on the likelihood of another IRBM launch, however, Defense Ministry spokesman Moon Sang-gyun said he does not have any intelligence on the matter.

Since the last Musudan launched did not succeed, "North Korea seems to need some time to make up for the failure," Moon said.

As with a nuclear test, North Korea is technically ready to conduct an additional atomic test at any time, he noted.

pbr@yna.co.kr
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