It looks like North Korea will not be firing its Musudan mobile missiles, after all.
A potential missile launch had been expected for weeks and had drawn international concern over what was seen as the latest in a series of provocations directed at the United States by the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.
However, U.S. intelligence has determined that over the past 24 to 36 hours, North Korea transported two Musudan missiles away from the potential launch site in the eastern part of the country, a U.S. official said. It was not believed that they were being moved to an alternate launch location.
For weeks, American satellites have focused on a potential launch location near the North Korean city of Wonsan, where the missiles had been transported in early April. U.S. officials warned that a launch could occur at any time as the mobile missiles were spotted being placed in an upright firing position.
With a potential range of 2,000 miles, the missiles had drawn concern because mobile missiles do not need much time to be fired. First displayed in a 2010 military parade, the missiles have never been tested by North Korea.
Kept hidden in forest cover at the suspected launch site, one of the missiles would routinely be spotted being placed into an upright launch position, presumably fueled for launch. Then, it would be seen getting lowered back down and transported back into the forest cover. That routine was taking place as recently as last week.
Today, Pentagon spokesman George Little described what he called a pause of military provocations on the part of North Korea.
“What we have seen recently is a provocation pause and we think that’s obviously beneficial to efforts to ensure that we have peace and stability on the Korean peninsula,” Little said.
He ”obviously can’t speak for the North Koreans” on the motive for the pause, he added.
“Historically, North Korea’s going through cycles of provocations [that] then come to an end,” he said. “That’s been helpful. And we do think that they probably heard very loudly from us, and from others, the need to ratchet it back and to lower the temperature. That was our desire, but also from the South Koreans and the Japanese and the Chinese government, [which] also made some helpful statements. So I can’t say with certainty, but I think those are some of the factors. “
U.S. officials said that despite the North Korea’s bellicose rhetoric warning of nuclear missile strikes, North Korea’s military was never seen escalating its annual training levels. If anything, its levels were said by U.S. officials to be on a par with or lower than normal.
Officials now say that most of North Korea’s military is where it was expected to be at this time of year: in the fields helping to plant this year’s crops.