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Thursday
Apr042013

N. Korea Relocates Long-Range Missile in Latest 'Rhetorical Threat'

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SEOUL, South Korea) -- North Korea has moved a missile with "considerable range" to its east coast, but the weapon is incapable of reaching the United States, South Korea's defense minister said on Thursday.

Kim Kwan-Jin denied earlier reports by Japanese media that it could be a KN-08, believed to be a long-range missile that could potentially hit the U.S. mainland.  That missile was showcased at a parade last year in Pyongyang but it is unclear whether officials actually have the capacity to launch it.

Kim told parliamentary lawmakers in Seoul that the reasons for the latest movement are unclear but "could be for testing or drills."

Experts believe it could be a medium-range missile called Musudan, known to carry a range of 1,800 miles.

Some experts in Seoul say North Korea might be considering a test launch on April 15, the birth date of the country's founder and leader Kim Jong Un's grandfather.

Minister Kim added that North Korean military forces have not shown signs of preparing for a full-scale conflict.

"[North Korea's recent threats] are rhetorical threats.  I believe the odds of a full-scale provocation are small," he said.

But there are still possibilities of North Korea's initiating a small-scale provocation against South Korea, for example, similar to an exchange of fire in 2010 on the South's Yeonpyong Island.

A spokesman for the North Korean People's Army released a statement earlier Thursday, saying the military has been "authorized to attack the American imperialists using smaller, lighter, and diversified" nuclear weapons.  "We are ready any day, could be even today or tomorrow," and "the moment of explosion is approaching fast," it said.

North Korean authorities also maintained its entry ban on South Korean workers and cargo lined up to enter the inter-Korean Gaesong Industrial Park for the second day.  

South Korea's Unification Ministry urged the North to lift the passage restrictions and normalize business production.  At the moment, commuters are only allowed to leave the North, but not enter.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio