SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea’s presidential office believes North Korea could test an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) as early as Monday, local media reported, citing an unnamed source.
Tensions on the Korean peninsula have risen amid growing signs that Pyongyang may soon follow through on its threats to resume testing ICBMs, breaking a self-imposed moratorium in 2017.
Incumbent President Moon Jae-in’s office told President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol that a test launch was imminent and would not be surprising if it took place on Monday, the Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported.
The comment came as Moon’s national security adviser, Suh Hoon, briefed Yoon on Saturday on various foreign and security policy issues, the report said, citing an unnamed official from the president-elect’s office.
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“It’s so imminent that it wouldn’t be surprising if they fired on it on Monday,” the report quoted Suh as saying. “We are taking the situation seriously.”
A spokesperson for Moon’s office said Suh briefed Yoon on North Korea’s recent moves, including recent missile launches and the Ukraine crisis, among other things, but declined to comment on the Chosun Ilbo report. .
Yoon’s spokesman, Kim Eun-hye, told Reuters there could be various closed-door briefings for the president-elect, but did not confirm details on the security concerns.
In a rare joint announcement, the United States and South Korea said on Friday that the North had used its largest-ever ICBM in two recent launches, under the guise of satellite launch preparations.
The missile system, known as Hwasong-17, was unveiled at a military parade in Pyongyang in 2020 and reappeared at a defense exhibition in October 2021.
Yoon, who was elected president last week, had signaled a tougher line against Pyongyang. While remaining open to the resumption of stalled denuclearization talks, he said pre-emptive strikes might be needed to counter an imminent North Korean missile attack and pledged to purchase additional US THAAD missile interceptors.
Ahead of the election, Yoon also warned of “even greater pressure from the international community if North Korea fires an ICBM under the guise of a satellite launch.”
He declined to comment further on Sunday.
(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Sam Holmes)
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