North Korea continues threats
South Korea's defense minister says North Korea has moved a missile with "considerable range" to its east coast, but says it is not capable of hitting the United States.
Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin on Thursday dismissed reports in Japanese and South Korean media that the missile could be a KN-08, which is believed to be a long-range missile that if operable could hit the United States. He said there were no signs North Korea was preparing for a full-scale conflict.
Experts say North Korea has not demonstrated that it has missiles capable of long range or accuracy. Some suspect that long-range missiles unveiled by Pyongyang at a parade last year were actually mockups.
Analysts on both sides of the Pacific attribute the aggressive posture is part of an attempt by North Korea's young leader Kim Jong Un to consolidate his power in the communist state founded by his grandfather. Kim has been very unpredictable and more aggressive over a short period of time compared to the last 20 years. North Korea also has plenty of conventional military firepower, but it's not clear if their nuclear weapons are as strong as their military says.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called North Korea a real and clear danger, and the Pentagon is sending an anti-missile defense system to Guam to block any possible attacks.
Nuclear analysis research fellow Andrea Berger, of the Royal United Services Institute, commented.
"At the present time we don't feel that North Korea has the ability to miniaturize a nuclear warhead and put it atop a ballistic missile to send to Washington, Guam or Hawaii. Its missiles we feel don't have the accuracy or the range to accomplish the strikes that it has threatened to carry out. However, the fact that analysts are still uncertain about North Korea's capabilities is something that Pyongyang is banking on in issuing these threats," she said.
Meanwhile, hackers have apparently disrupted North Korea's government-run Twitter account. The disruption comes at a time of rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Both sites are running but carrying content that differs sharply from the usual far of praising North Korea and its leaders.
North Korean border authorities denied entry to South Koreans who managed jointly run factories in Kaesong for a second day.
The North Korean military has warned it has been authorized to attack the United States using "smaller, lighter and diversified" nuclear weapons.
The reference to smaller weapons could be a claim North Korea has improved its nuclear technology or a bluff.
"It's possible that North Korea might try to have a small scale military provocation like it did in 2010 with shelling an island or sinking a ship. The difference this time around will be that South Korea has already made very clear that it will respond in kind to any such provocation and will not tolerate a death of South Korean citizens. So North Korea's facing a different response if it goes down that road like it did in 2010," said Berger.
Meantime, Russia says North Korea's decision to pursue its nuclear program seriously hurts the chances of resuming six-party talks.
A spokesman for Russia's foreign ministry said in Moscow that North Korea's decision "radically complicates" or even practically ends the chance for the resumption of international talks. He also condemned North Korea's disregard for United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding the country's nuclear program.
North Korea announced earlier this week it would restart a nuclear facility closed in 2007 capable of producing material for nuclear weapons.