New Korea tensions over reported missile movements

Smoke bombs explode near a South Korean army K-1 tank during a South Korea and U.S. joint military exercise against possible North Korean attacks in Paju, near the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between the two Koreas, on Wednesday, June 8, 2011. North Korea conducted a routine short-range missile test last week in an apparent effort to improve its missile capabilities, a South Korean official said Wednesday, amid renewed tension on the Korean peninsula.
AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon

SEOUL, South Korea - News reports say South Korea has redeployed some of its U.S.-made missiles capable of striking Pyongyang to sites near the tense border with North Korea.

Yonhap news agency reported Friday that the redeployment of Army Tactical Missile System rockets was made in response to North Korea's shelling of a border island in November, which killed four South Koreans.

Yonhap cited unidentified military sources as saying the surface-to-suface missile has a range of about 100 miles.

The mass-circulation Dong-a Ilbo newspaper carried a similar report, saying South Korea has a total of 220 such missiles.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff declined to confirm the reports but did say that weapons and troops are redeployed in line with changes in the security environment.

The reported redeployment comes only a few days after South Korea's defense chief asserted that North Korea may be able to load a nuclear warhead atop a missile. The South Koreans did not offer substantive evidence to back up their belief that the North has the technology to do it.

North Korea, which conducted a couple of nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, is thought to have enough plutonium for at least a half-dozen weapons.

Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin told a parliamentary committee there is a "possibility" the North may have developed such a miniaturized nuclear warhead. Most experts doubt that the North has mastered the miniaturization technology to mount a nuclear warhead on a missile.

Last week, the New York Times published a report claiming that the U.S. Navy had forced a North Korean ship on its way to Myanmar to return home.