South Korea's military said Monday it will stay on high alert as North Korea may fire an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) around the U.S. presidential election scheduled for Tuesday, source from Yonhap.
Military officials said Pyongyang may want to send a strong message to the new U.S. president that it will not give up its nuclear and missile development programs despite international condemnations and sanctions.
"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 Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff told reporters in a briefing.
Both the South Korean military and the U.S. forces stationed on the Korean Peninsula said they are utilizing all available resources to keep close tabs on the movement of missiles.
The Musudan or BM-35 missile is an IRBM with an estimated range of some 3,500 kilometers, which is enough to allow it to target the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam. The island is home to many strategic assets that can support South Korean and U.S. forces in the event of a conflict breaking out on the peninsula.
Meanwhile, the defense ministry said it won't allow any impact of the corruption scandal involving President Park Geun-hye's close confidante Choi Soon-sil on the military's preparedness against the North's provocations.
In the influence-peddling scandal, Choi used her four-decades-long relationship with the president to meddle in affairs of state. She was arrested Thursday on charges of fraud and abuse of power.
"All military and security matters, including the deployment of an advanced missile defense system known as THAAD, will be pushed forward as planned regardless of the scandal," a ministry spokesman said.
U.S. Forces Korea Commander Gen. Vincent K. Brooks said Friday a THAAD battery will be deployed in South Korea within eight to 10 months to counter growing threats from the communist regime.