North Korea is preparing to conduct more missile tests soon, a South Korean newspaper reported Thursday, citing intelligence obtained by South Korean and U.S. authorities.
It would be an unprecedented test if the North fired all of the surface-to-ship and ship-to-ship missiles, but intelligence sources quoted by the Chosun Ilbo paper said they thought the North may launch five to seven of them.
The North has forbidden ships to sail in an area in the Yellow Sea until Oct. 15 in preparation for the launch, an intelligence source told the paper.
The North fired two missiles on Tuesday in routine military drills, South Korea's defense minister said on Wednesday.
"If the North fires a large number of missiles, it would be difficult to see it as routine exercise," the source was quoted as saying.
A South Korean defense ministry official declined to comment on the report but said the government had no indications of unusual activities in the North.
South Korean intelligence officials believe the North could fire more than five more missiles - KN-01 land-to-ship and Styx ship-to-ship missiles, Chosun Ilbo said.
North Korea already has issued a no-sail warning banning ships from the area until next Wednesday, it added.
South Korea’s Defense Ministry and the National Intelligence Service and the U.S. military command in Seoul said they could not confirm the Chosun Ilbo report.
North Korea routinely test-fires short-range missiles as part of its military training but this week’s movements come at a time of increasing concern about security on the peninsula and speculation about the health of the North’s authoritarian leader, Kim Jong Il.
After agreeing to dismantle its nuclear program in exchange for energy aid and other concessions, the North stopped disabling its main nuclear complex in August over objections to U.S. demands for verification of its nuclear programs. The country has since shown signs of reassembling the facilities.
A U.S. nuclear envoy visited Pyongyang last week to try resolving the dispute but it is unclear whether it produced any major breakthrough.