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South Korea Bracing for North Korean Missile Test 'Anytime Soon'

Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) -- The South Korean military is on high alert Wednesday preparing for North Korea's possible mid-range missile test "anytime soon."

"In the past, North Korea has launched missiles in early morning hours seeking 'a surprise effect.'  So both South Korea and the U.S. forces are operating intelligence assets 24 hours," South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-Seok said.

Pyongyang is expected to launch its untested Musudan missile with a range of 1,800 to 2,180 miles from its eastern coast.  It could reach as far as Okinawa, Japan and Guam, where U.S. military forces are located.

North Korea has launched various kinds of missiles in the past but with advanced notice to clear waters before the test.  It has yet to notify neighboring nations but experts believe the launch could come at any time in light of recent tensions.

Pyongyang has escalated its threatening rhetoric in the past few weeks in protest of the latest U.N. sanctions and the annual U.S.-South Korean military drills.  It has vowed to launch a nuclear attack on the United States and South Korea.

The last remaining ties and symbol of inter-Korean cooperation, the Kaesong Industrial Complex, was shut down this week.  The North warned foreigners in both North and South Korea to evacuate by Wednesday.

Such threats have come almost on a daily basis while Pyongyang prepares to celebrate the 101st birthday of leader Kim Jong Un's grandfather and founder of North Korea, Kim Il Sung, on April 15.  That day is one of the most important festivities to North Koreans with additional rations, clothing and candy treats for the children.

The movement of Musudan-type missiles being prepared for a test-launch has been closely monitored by U.S. and South Korean surveillance. Two Musudans were spotted being transported to the eastern coast last week but disappeared from the radar for a while.

They have now been spotted, fueled and ready to be launched in Wonsan, Gangwon Province, just above the North-South border on the east coast of North Korea.  

In South Hamgyong Province, north of Wonsan, four or five mobile Transporter Erector Launchers (TEL) showed up recently, hinting that North Korea might launch short-range scud missiles and Rodong missiles in addition to the Musudan.

North Korea in the past has launched a number of different kinds of missiles when testing a newer model; for example, in July of 2006 and July of 2009, they shot seven missiles each.

In Japan, the national J-Alert emergency warning system has been activated, in case of any missile launch.  Officials called on cities to inspect receivers to make sure they were functioning, in case they needed to be notified of any falling debris.

The defense minister inspected PAC-3 missiles deployed throughout the country Wednesday on camera and two Aegis destroyers equipped with missile interceptors have been sent to nearby seas.

The U.S. Navy also currently has three Aegis destroyers patrolling in waters near Japan and around Guam.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio