It's easy to take North Korea's constant proclamations of war with a grain or heap or silo of salt — the nation's propaganda machine has a habit of chest puffing, and its military never really delivers. But when intercepted North Korean internal communications reveal that they're planning to launch a mobile ballistic missile? Well, maybe we should take that a little more seriously. CNN has the scoop this morning:
Just in- CNN's Barbara Starr- communications intercepts indicating N Korea could be planning to launch a mobile ballistic missile days/wks— CNNNortheastDesk (@CNNNEDesk) April 4, 2013
CNN is gathering this information from an unnamed U.S. defense official, but Starr's sourcing tends to be strong. To be clear, this intercepted communique comes as South Korean officials are reporting that North Korea moved a missile to its eastern coast. Here's why those two reports, when combined, might make for more than proclamations as usual:
Japan and the North Korean Fondness for Birthdays
"While it has 'considerable' range, the missile isn't capable of hitting the continental U.S.," reads the report from Bloomberg's Sangwon Yoon, who gleaned a briefing from South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan Jin.
"Considerable range" could spell problems for Japan, a nation that's obviously are a lot closer than the U.S. to North Korea — and almost as detested, too. CNN's Jethro Mullen and Joe Sterling asked Mark Fitzpatrick, director of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Program at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, what that would mean and why this time frame of "weeks" could be problematic:
The medium-range missile will probably take about two weeks to prepare, Fitzpatrick said, which means a potential launch could coincide with the April 15 anniversary of the the birth of Kim Il Sung, the founder of North Korea and grandfather of its current leader, Kim Jong Un.
Known as "the Day of the Sun," Kim Il Sung's birthday is a major public holiday in North Korea that is usually accompanied by large-scale parades.
And what better way to commemorate Kim Il Sung's "Day of the Sun" than a setting the shores of one of North Korea's most hated enemies on fire?