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DPRK 'ready for nuclear strikes'

By Agencies in Seoul | China Daily/Agencies | Updated: 2013-04-05 01:02

US reinforces missile shield as defense chief says danger is real

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea said on Thursday it had approved plans for nuclear strikes on targets in the United States.

Washington, in response, has scrambled to reinforce its Pacific missile defenses, preparing to send ground-based interceptors to Guam.

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the DPRK's increasingly bellicose threats combined with its military capabilities represented a "real and clear danger" to the US and to its allies the Republic of Korea and Japan.

"We take those threats seriously, we have to take those threats seriously."

The Pentagon said it would send ground-based THAAD missile-interceptor batteries to protect bases on Guam, home to 6,000 US military personnel, submarines and bombers.

They would complement two Aegis anti-missile destroyers already dispatched to the region.

The DPRK military said it had received final approval for military action against the US, possibly involving nuclear weapons.

"The moment of explosion is approaching fast," the Korean People's Army general staff said, responding to what it called the provocative US use of nuclear-capable B-52 and B-2 stealth bombers in ongoing war games with the ROK.

The US aggression would be "smashed by ... cutting-edge smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike means", it said in a statement.

While few of the DPRK's threats have been matched with action, reports on Thursday said it appeared to have moved a medium-range missile capable of hitting targets in the ROK and Japan to its east coast.

Yonhap news agency quoted an ROK official as saying that Seoul was "closely monitoring" whether the DPRK moved it with a view to actual launch or just as a show of force against the US.

ROK Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin said he did not know the reasons behind the missile movement, and that it "could be for testing or drills".

He dismissed reports in Japanese media that the missile could be a KN-08, which is believed to be a long-range missile that if operable could hit the US.

Tensions: Stocks hit by threats

Kim told lawmakers at a parliamentary committee meeting that the missile has "considerable range" but not enough to hit the US mainland.

The ROK's main stock market fell to a four-month low on escalating DPRK threats and fears about the future of a DPRK-ROK joint industrial complex.

The benchmark KOSPI dropped 1.2 percent to close at 1,959,45 - the biggest daily loss since Nov 15 last year.

The DPRK blocked access to its Kaesong joint industrial zone with the ROK on Thursday for the second day running, and threatened to pull out its 53,000 workers in a reaction to the ROK's airing of a "military" contingency plan to protect its own workers there.

Pyongyang informed Seoul on Wednesday it was stopping the daily movement of ROK citizens to the Kaesong complex. "The full closure of the complex is set to become a reality," said a spokesman for the DPRK's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea.

The DPRK said around 800 ROK employees currently in Kaesong can leave whenever they want, but many have chosen to stay to keep the factories running.

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