7 May 2013

North Korean missiles 'removed' from launch site

10:11 pm on 7 May 2013

North Korea has removed two medium-range missiles from a coastal launch site, indicating a lowering of tension on the peninsula, a US official says.

Pyongyang was believed to be preparing for a launch in April, having threatened attacks in the region.

The threats followed tough new sanctions by the United Nations imposed on North Korea in March after its third nuclear test.

It had also been angered by wide-ranging annual US-South Korea military drills, which ended a week ago.

The news that the missiles had been removed from the site on the east coast came on the eve of a summit in Washington between the US and South Korean presidents, the BBC reports.

Park Geun-hye is to hold talks with Barack Obama later on Tuesday, with the two expected to reiterate a commitment to strong ties. Ms Park, who took office in February, will also address the US Congress on Wednesday.

The Musudan missiles had been ready to launch at any moment but North Korea had now "moved them", a unnamed US defence official told AFP news agency.

A report from South Korea's Yonhap news agency, citing an unnamed senior government source, supported that, saying Pyongyang appeared to have lifted its highest combat alert and moved the missiles, although their current location was not confirmed.

The move is the most tangible sign yet that North Korea has stepped back from its threats to launch missiles, the BBC reports.