Conflict & Justice

North Korea moves missiles, warns foreign embassies to evacuate


South Korean soldiers patrol inside the barbed-wire fence near the border village of Panmunjom on April 4, 2013 in Paju, South Korea.


Chung Sung-Jun

North Korea has warned foreign embassies to consider evacuating their staff from Pyongyang, amid reports that it now has two missiles in place on its east coast.

South Korean military officials told Yonhap news agency that North Korea had two mid-range "Musudan" missiles concealed in an unidentified facility on the eastern seaboard, where they were reportedly moved to earlier this week.

Both missiles, which have an estimated range of 1,860 to 2,490 miles, are thought to be loaded onto mobile launchpads.

"The North is apparently intent on firing the missiles without prior warning," the South Korean source said.

Seoul has deployed two radar-equipped warships on either side of the peninsula to track any missiles fired, according to officials, and is using its ground-based radar system and early-warning aircraft to watch for tell-tale signs of a launch.

Pyongyang, meanwhile, has advised several foreign embassies to consider clearing out of the capital.

Russian, British and German diplomats confirmed that the North Korean foreign ministry suggested they "examine the question of evacuating employees." The countries said they were evaluating the situation, but had no immediate plans to move staff.

South Korea is also considering evacuating its citizens from the Kaesong industrial complex that it shares with North Korea, though the government doesn't think it necessary for the moment.

The foreign secretary of the Philippines, which has some 43,000 nationals resident in South Korea, said he would travel to Seoul on Saturday and "fully vet" contingency plans to protect Filipino citizens there.

Meanwhile the US is taking "all necessary precautions," a White House spokesman said Thursday, including monitoring North Korea's statements closely and taking "prudent measures" in response.

The Pentagon is preparing to deploy a missile-defense system to Guam. At around 2,000 miles southeast of the Korean Peninsula, the Pacific island – unlike the US mainland – is believed to be within the range of North Korea's missiles.

South Korea's defense ministry said yesterday that a missile of "considerable" range had been stationed on North Korea's east coast. It has not confirmed the latest reports, however.