The United States and South Korean armed forces went on the highest level of alert – Watchcon 2 – Thursday, April 11, ready for multiple launches after at least one North Korean ballistic Musudan missile was sighted fueled and ready to launch at any moment on the country’s eastern coast. With an estimated range of more 3,400 kilometers, it places US bases in Guam and the Okinawa islands within range as well as South Korea and Japan.
According to a senior US defense official in Washington, the floating SBX X-band radar is in position for tracking missiles fired by Pyongyang. South Korean officials, commenting on the apparent movement of several ballistic missiles on North Korea’s east coast, report that this is an apparent attempt to confuse intelligence monitoring by the US, Japan and South Korea.
The US and Japan, which earlier deployed Patriot interceptors in Tokyo, have said that any missile would be intercepted if it showed signs of heading for the United States or Japan. But neither mentioned a US military target or the possibility of a missile flying over Japan to land in the Pacific Ocean.
Military sources in Washington point to the US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s warning Wednesday that North Korea is “skating very close to a dangerous line” with its bellicose rhetoric on nuclear arms, and his stress on America’s ability to protect itself and its allies, as the most serious statement to come from the Obama administration so far. It was the first warning of a US military response to a North Korean missile launch.