June 01, 2009 09:00
North Korea has declared a wide area in the West Sea off Hwanghae and Pyongan provinces off-limits until the end of July. It is also becoming more secretive. A South Korean government official on Sunday said the North Korean Army has reduced communications to a significant extent, "and they exchange only messages that seem essential during communications as if they are mindful of our monitoring."
On about 120 occasions every year, North Korea declares areas in its waters off limits for ships for military exercises or oil exploration in both East and West seas. But it has seldom declared such a large area off limits for such a long period.
Experts speculate that the sudden departure of Chinese fishing boats engaged in illegal fishing in waters along the Northern Limit Line probably has something to do with this. Their number had dropped from some 280 to some 120 since last Thursday.
A train carrying what appears to be an intercontinental ballistic missile is traveling to a rocket launch site in Musudan-ri, North Hamgyong Province.
Another South Korean government official said North Korea will probably launch a missile as early as mid-June, judging by the lead time, including preparations for setting up the launch pad.
But other experts say it would take longer than two weeks given the time it takes to move it to Musudan-ri, assemble it, set it up on the launch pad and fill it with liquid fuel. North Korea's Taepodong-2 missile is believed to have a maximum range of 6,700 km, and any missile with range over 5,500 km is categorized as an ICBM.
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