July 27, 2017 3:49 am JST

North Korea missile test imminent say Washington, Seoul

Launch may come Thursday to mark anniversary of Korean War 'victory'

SOTARO SUZUKI, Nikkei staff writer

North Korea could launch a ballistic missile Thursday to mark the anniversary of the armistice that ended the Korean War.

SEOUL -- The U.S. and South Korea are watching Pyongyang closely amid signs that North Korea may launch another ballistic missile as early as Thursday local time.

A July 27 launch would coincide with the 64th anniversary of the armistice that ended the Korean War, a date that North Korea celebrates as Victory Day. Pyongyang held a national meeting Wednesday for the occasion, the Korean Central News Agency reported.

Defense Minister Pak Yong Sik declared that if North Korea's "enemies" continue to consider a pre-emptive nuclear strike, Pyongyang will "mount the most telling pre-emptive nuclear attack on the heart of the American empire without any warning."

Seoul and Washington have combined their surveillance capabilities to "closely track and monitor" the situation, a spokesperson for South Korea's Unification Ministry said Wednesday.

A U.S. defense official said North Korean equipment for a missile launch arrived recently in the city of Kusong, American broadcaster CNN reported Monday.

South Korea's Yonhap News Agency said Wednesday that the government's authorities think such a test likely will involve an intermediate-range missile or an intercontinental ballistic missile of the sort launched July 4.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in's administration has proposed holding bilateral military talks Thursday in the demilitarized zone on easing border tensions, as a first step toward North-South dialogue. Pyongyang has yet to respond to the offer. If the answer turns out to be a missile test that day, Seoul may be forced to rethink its approach.

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