North Korea may fire short-range rockets near start of China's party congress: South Korean media

An undated combination picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Sept 16, 2017,  shows a launching drill of the medium-and-long range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12.
An undated combination picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Sept 16, 2017, shows a launching drill of the medium-and-long range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12.PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (BLOOMBERG, AFP) -North Korea is preparing to fire multiple short-range rockets around the opening of the Chinese Communist Party's twice-a-decade congress on Oct 18, a South Korean daily newspaper reported.

The South Korean and US militaries have recently spotted about 30 Scud rockets being moved from Hwangju, south of the capital Pyongyang, to a missile maintenance facility in the western coastal city of Nampo, the Seoul-based Asia Business Daily said, citing an unidentified person.

While launching dozens of short-range rockets simultaneously is unusual, it is not unprecedented.

In March 2014, Mr Kim Jong Un's regime fired 71 of them in a single week. Such a move would also show how North Korea is capable of various types of provocation, having spent the past few months testing missiles that could potentially deliver a nuclear warhead to the US mainland.

Firing the missiles would be an act of protest against the United States and South Korea's joint military exercises, which include mobilising key American assets such as aircraft carriers, the daily said.

There was intense speculation earlier this week of a possible ballistic missile test by the North as it marks a key anniversary.

Tensions over North Korea's weapons programme have soared in recent months with Pyongyang launching a flurry of missiles and conducting its sixth and most powerful nuclear test in defiance of multiple sets of UN sanctions.

North Korea often uses provocative tests to mark key historical commemorations and the country was celebrating the 72nd anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers' Party on Tuesday (Oct 10).

Yonhap news agency reported consistent movements of personnel and equipment being detected in certain locations in the North, suggesting that preparations for another weapons test might be under way.

Pyongyang conducted its fifth nuclear test on the anniversary of the founding day of North Korea last year.

The North's official media touted the party's byungjin policy - which pushes for simultaneous development of nuclear weapons and the economy - and added that military power was "the guarantee for victory".

"We must complete the construction of the national nuclear force by thoroughly upholding the party's byungjin policy," said a front-page editorial carried by the Rodong Sinmun newspaper to mark the party anniversary on Tuesday.

"We must hold high the banner of the great byungjin policy to accelerate the final victory in the anti-America Armageddon," it said.