The South Korean Foreign Defense Ministry says the probability of a North Korea mid-range missile test is “considerably high.” Pyongyang is preparing to celebrate the 101st birthday of its founder on April 15, historically a time when North Korea has made dramatic displays of power.
"In the past, North Korea has launched missiles in early morning hours seeking 'a surprise effect.' So both South Korea and the U.S. forces are operating intelligence assets 24 hours," said South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-Seok.
Two Musudan missiles, with a range of 1,800 to 2,180 miles, fueled and readied, are situated in Wonsan, just above the North-South border on the North’s east coast. A range of that kind could target South Korea, Guam, and Japan, where U.S. military forces are housed.
"They want to show off military power and maximize tensions by doing this," Park Chang-Kwoun, a researcher at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses, said. "Besides, this is a clever way of confusing the U.S and South Korean intelligence."
While the expectation is that the missile launch is only for testing, North Korean officials warned tourists in the South that they are on the brink of nuclear war. They told diplomats in Pyongyang that, as of Wednesday, they will not be able to guarantee their safety. However, the Russian Embassy said it has no plans of leaving.
The Gaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea was shut down this week, severing the last of its ties with the South. The industrial park was an inter-Korean economic development. Foreigners were warned to evacuate by Wednesday.
Kim Jong Un’s grandfather, Kim Il-Sung was Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of North Korea from 1948 to 1972 and President from 1972 until his death in 1994. Leading the North into the Korean War in the 1950s, Il-Sung is remembered for being a formidable leader, and his birthday is usually celebrated by a huge military parade.
Threats out of Pyongyang since March are believed to be the 30-year-old Kim Jong Un’s attempts to establish himself as the kind of mighty ruler Pyongyang considered his grandfather to be.