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South Korea raises alert status to 'vital threat'

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A missile is displayed during a military parade marking 100 years since the birth of North Korea’s founder Kim Il-sung in Pyongyang on April 15, 2012.

South Korea has raised its military surveillance alert to “vital threat” amid claims that North Korea would test-launch a medium-range missile.

The decision was made on Wednesday after South Korean intelligence said that the North is prepared to launch at least one mid-range missile from its eastern coast.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se warned Pyongyang on Wednesday that it will face a fresh round of UN sanctions if it conducts a new missile test.

“According to intelligence obtained by our side and the US, the possibility of a missile launch by North Korea is very high,” Yun told a parliamentary hearing.

The Korean Peninsula has been locked in a cycle of escalating military rhetoric following the participation of nuclear-capable US B-52s and B-2 stealth bombers in recent joint military drills with South Korea.

North Korea on Tuesday urged all foreign institutions, enterprises, and tourists in South Korea to leave the country, warning that the Korean Peninsula is nearing thermonuclear war.

In the latest move signaling the escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula, on Tuesday, thousands of North Korean workers failed to go to work at a joint industrial complex with the South, following earlier plans by Pyongyang to suspend operations at the facility.

On April 5, the North also urged foreign embassies, including that of Russia, to consider the possibility of evacuation from Pyongyang.

On March 30, North Korea declared that it is in a “state of war” with South Korea, warning that any provocation by Seoul and Washington will trigger an all-out nuclear war.

Pyongyang warned that if Washington and Seoul launched a preemptive attack, the conflict “will not be limited to a local war, but develop into an all-out war, a nuclear war.”

Washington has also deployed two guided-missile destroyers in the Pacific to waters off the Korean Peninsula.

On April 8, Japan deployed Patriot missile launchers to “defend against a potential attack by North Korea.” Japan’s Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera also announced that the country was on “high alert” due to escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula.


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