South Korea’s military is on high alert over concerns that North Korea will launch a missile as U.S. voters head to the polls on election day, reports Yonhap News Agency.
Military officials suggest that the North may attempt another launch one of its Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM), a potential threat to U.S. forces in Guam. The American strategic assets stationed in Guam could be used to back up U.S. and South Korean troops on the Korean peninsula were the North to attack its southern neighbor.
South Korea’s military noted that Pyongyang may want to present a show of force to demonstrate that it will continue its nuclear and ballistic missile programs despite pressure from the U.S. and the international community.
“Doing a major test would be a way of trying to intimidate the incoming president,” Victor Cha, senior adviser and Korea chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, previously told CNN, “North Korea chooses particular windows that they know will gain maximum attention from the world, and the US in particular.”
North Korea has historically attempted to stir up trouble around U.S. elections, CNN explained, citing a recent CSIS study on North Korea and its provocations.
“We are closely watching every move by the North Korean military at its Punggye-ri nuclear test site and other possible missile-launching sites. The military is fully prepared to respond to any provocative acts by the North,” an official from South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) revealed to reporters.
ROK JCS Chairman Gen. Lee Sun-jin told troops to arm themselves with a “fight tonight” spirit.
U.S. officials have also indicated that the North may attempt another missile launch prior to or during the election. It is unclear, however, whether the North is prepared to carry out such a test.
North Korea has conducted eight Musudan IRBM tests with only one success. The two most recent tests were failures which damaged some of the Korean People’s Army’s launch equipment.
“While there has been speculation of a North Korean satellite launch or nuclear test occurring during the run-up to the US Presidential election, the evidence from commercial satellite imagery of the Sohae Satellite Launching Station and the Punggye-ri nuclear test site suggests it’s possible but unlikely,” 38 North, a blog run by the U.S.-Korea Institute at SAIS, argued.
The U.S.-based think tank did, however, note that there has been some activity around the North Portal at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site and that North Korea could conduct a nuclear test on short notice.
Pyongyang has not made any public threats, but that does not preclude the possibility of an election day surprise from North Korea.
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