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North Korea no-fly zone sparks missile launch speculations

North Korea had designated an extensive area near the port city of Wonsan as a no-navigation zone.

By Elizabeth Shim
North Korea no-fly zone sparks missile launch speculations
A South Korea military official said on Monday that Pyongyang could test-launch a short-range rocket or a scud ballistic missile after North Korea set a no-navigation zone on its eastern coast. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

SEOUL, Nov. 16 (UPI) -- South Korea confirmed North Korea designated a no-fly zone on the eastern coast of the peninsula on Nov. 11 as concern grows that Pyongyang could be preparing to test-fire a missile.

North Korea had designated an extensive area near the port city of Wonsan as a no-navigation zone from Nov. 11 to Dec. 7, South Korean news network MBN reported on Monday.

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A military source said South Korea is on standby for new developments, and that it's possible Pyongyang could test-launch a short-range rocket or a scud ballistic missile.

The speculation comes at a time when North Korea activities have receded at Sohae Satellite Launching Station in Tongchang-ri, North Pyongan province, where North Korea built a new 220-foot platform, as well as fuel and storage facilities for oxidizers.

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Sohae is the long-range missile platform where in 2012 North Korea launched the expandable carrier rocket Unha-3, which fell into the Yellow Sea. The debris of a second-stage launch fell into the Philippine Sea after an object had entered orbit.

In May, North Korea released new footage of what it claims is the triumphant lift-off of a submarine-launched ballistic missile, and North Korean submarines were active between May and September, according to satellite imagery.

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But Kim Yong-hyun, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University, suggested governments shouldn't rush to conclusions. "Setting a no-navigation zone does not necessarily mean North Korea wants to launch a rocket right away, but rather it is opening the possibility, while protesting the international community," Kim said.

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North Korea has defended its nuclear weapons program as a deterrent against invasions, but the Korea Herald reported on Monday that South Korean President Park Geun-hye said Seoul would offer to invest in the North's infrastructure, if the North agreed to abandon its weapons of mass destruction.

"If North Korea abandons nuclear [weapons] and takes a path toward openness and cooperation, [South Korea] will join hands with the international community to assist in infrastructure investment in Northeast Asia where annual demand is expected to be $63 billion a year," said Park, during the G20 summit held in Antalya, Turkey.

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