North Korea is playing up to its billing as a military “master of deception” as it repeatedly relocates its mid-range missile launchers, aiming to combat Korean-U.S. surveillance systems.
According to government officials Thursday, the North is constantly repositioning its transporter erector launchers (TELs) carrying Musudan missiles in South Hamgyeong Province as part of such tactics.
The Musudan, with a range of 3,000 to 4,000 kilometers, could fly as far as the U.S. territory of Guam, home to U.S. naval and air bases.
“Four or five TELs often shift from one place to another and we see the act as aimed at misleading missile monitors,” a government official said.
Not only the types of missiles but when they will be launched has also become uncertain after the North failed to launch them Wednesday, the day most media reported as D-day.
Another official said that instead of the Musudan missile, North Korea may fire off shorter-range ones ― Scuds and Nodongs ― that have a range of 300 to 500 kilometers and 1,300 to 1,500 kilometers, respectively.
Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se told lawmakers Wednesday that a North Korean missile launch looked imminent as part of Pyongyang’s increasing belligerence, which some see as being a tactic to start direct talks with the United States in order to receive security guarantees.
In addition, the communist country is approaching the April 15 anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, known as the Day of the Sun. Last year, the North held a large-scale military parade to mark the centenary of the founder's birth, which is commemorated as one of the most important national holidays in the country.
The North reportedly has yet to finish fueling the missiles. Ministry of National Defense (MND) spokesman Kim Min-seok said the missiles can be moved around after being fuelled.
“North Korea has a system enabling ballistic missiles to be moved after being fueled because there are limited places to fuel them in North Korea,” he said.
On Wednesday, government officials said that the North may plan multiple missile launches beyond the Musudans, citing satellite imagery. The Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun also reported that the North has completed preparations for a simultaneous launch.