SEOUL — North Korea has shifted a missile with “considerable range” to its east coast, South Korea’s foreign minister says.
Kim Kwan-jin played down concerns that the missile could target the US mainland, and said the North’s intentions were not yet clear.
Pyongyang earlier renewed threats of a nuclear strike against the US, though its missiles are not believed to be capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
The US is responding to North Korea by moving missile defence shields to Guam.
The Pentagon said the shield on its Pacific island territory would be ready within weeks.
The North has previously named Guam among a list of possible targets for attack that included Hawaii and the US mainland.
Japanese and South Korea reports had suggested the missile being moved by the North was a long-range one with a capability of hitting the US west coast.
However, experts believe the North’s most powerful rocket, which it test-fired last December, has a range of 6,000km (3,700 miles) and can reach no further that Alaska.
Kim Kwan-jin told MPs in a parliamentary defence committee meeting that the missile had “considerable range”.
“The missile does not seem to be aimed at the US mainland. It could be aimed at test firing or military drills,” he said.
Analysts have interpreted Kim’s description as referring to the Musudan missile, estimated to have a range up to 4,000 kilometres. Guam would be within that range.
The North is believed to have its main military research centres in the east.
It has test-fired missiles from there before, and its three nuclear-weapons tests were carried out in the east.
Despite its belligerent rhetoric, North Korea has not taken direct military action since 2010, when it shelled a South Korean island and killed four people.
But in recent weeks it has threatened nuclear strikes and attacks on specific targets in the US and South Korea. (BBC)