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(LEAD) S. Korea vigilant about N. Korea's possible missile launch

All Headlines 14:34 July 25, 2017

(ATTN: UPDATES with comments on dialogue offer, missile warhead weight from 8th para; ADDS photo, byline)
By Lee Chi-dong

SEOUL, July 25 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's military said Tuesday that it is keeping an eye on North Korea's missile activity in cooperation with the United States.

Citing an unnamed U.S. defense official, CNN reported earlier in the day that the North seems to be preparing for another missile test.

Transporter vehicles carrying equipment for the firing of a ballistic missile were seen arriving in Kusong, North Pyongan Province, the official was quoted as saying through the broadcaster.

A composite image of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and flags of regional powers. (Yonhap)

The South's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) would not talk openly about such a specific intelligence-related issue.

"Our military is closely monitoring (North Korea's move) through the integrated operation of South Korea-U.S. combined surveillance assets against the possibility of North Korea's various provocations," Army Col. Roh Jae-cheon, the JCS spokesman, told reporters.

Another defense source in Seoul also said the reclusive and unpredictable North may fire a ballistic missile around the 64th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice Agreement that falls on Thursday.

It has kept mum on the South's latest dialogue offer.

Moon Sang-gyun, spokesman for South Korea's Ministry of National Defense, holds a press briefing in this file photo. (Yonhap)

The South's military has set Thursday as the deadline for the North to respond to the proposal for talks on easing border tension.

Seoul wants to reconnect the inter-Korean military hotline and discuss the issue of halting loudspeaker-based propaganda broadcasts across the border.

Officials here indicated that they have a reciprocal step in mind when asked if they are willing to take measures first to help ease animosity, even if there is no reply from Pyongyang until Thursday.

"We don't have a plan for that," the defense ministry's spokesman Moon Sang-gyun said at a press briefing.

On a local media report that the government is seeking to revise a missile development "guideline" in order to possess more powerful warheads, he neither confirmed nor denied it.

"Our military is exploring various methods to cope more efficiently with North Korea's advancing nuclear and missile threats," Moon said.

Under the 2012 agreement with the United States, a key ally, South Korea is prohibited from developing ballistic missiles with a range of over 800 kilometers and a payload exceeding 500 kilograms.

A Seoul-based newspaper reported that President Moon Jae-in delivered the government's intent to double the maximum warhead weight in his summit with his American counterpart Donald Trump at the end of June.

"I don't think it's appropriate (for me) to mention an issue discussed between the leaders of South Korea and the U.S.," the official said.

The North test-fired a ballistic missile with intercontinental range on U.S. Independence Day, which leader Kim Jong-un characterized as a "gift package" for the American people.

He said there will be more gifts for them.


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