SEOUL: North Korea will likely fire short-range missiles in an area off its east coast from which it has banned shipping, a report said Wednesday.
Yonhap news agency, quoting a government source, said the communist state would probably fire Scuds or ground-to-ship missiles in the Sea of Japan (East Sea).
The North has warned Japanese ships to stay clear of the area for 16 days starting Thursday because of unspecified military exercises, Japan’s Coast Guard said Tuesday.
The notification warned vessels not to enter an area measuring 110 by 450 kilometres (68 by 279 miles) at its widest points.
“It is likely to fire Scuds or short-range ground-to-ship missiles during the declared period from Thursday through July 10,” the source told Yonhap.
Scuds have a range of up to 500 km while ground-to-ship missiles have a 160 km range.
Yonhap had earlier reported preparations to fire medium-range missiles with a range of more than 3,000 km from a base near the eastern city of Wonsan. But it said Wednesday there were no signs at present of such preparations.
The defence ministry declined comment on what it called intelligence matters.
Washington has said it is prepared for the possibility that the North could fire a long-range missile towards Hawaii, perhaps on the July 4 US Independence Day — a scenario reportedly outlined in a Japanese defence ministry paper.
Pyongyang’s April 5 long-range rocket launch triggered the latest period of regional tension. Angry at UN condemnation of the launch, it quit international nuclear disarmament talks and staged its second atomic test on May 25.
In the days after the test the North fired a series of short-range missiles off its east coast and renounced the truce in force on the Korean peninsula, prompting South Korea to reinforce its military on the tense border.
The UN Security Council in June 12 slapped new sanctions on the North banning arms shipments. A US destroyer is now shadowing a suspicious North Korean cargo apparently heading for Myanmar.