Thursday, April 2, 2009

N. Korea Threatens to Retaliate With 'Thunderbolt of Fire'

from Fox
Thursday, April 02, 2009

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea's military on Thursday threatened immediate retaliation if "even the slightest effort" is made to intercept a long-range rocket it has begun fueling and that it plans to launch in the next few days.

President Barack Obama warned the liftoff would be a "provocative act" that would generate a U.N. Security Council response, but North Korea's military threatened those who opposed the launch with a "thunderbolt of fire" if they interfered.

A Korean Central News Agency report made a veiled threat against the U.S. In an apparent reference to American warships that have reportedly set sail to monitor the launch, the Korean-language version of the report said: "The United States should immediately withdraw armed forces deployed if it does not want to receive damage."

An unidentified senior U.S. military official said Pyongyang has started to fuel the rocket, a move that indicates final preparations for the launch. Experts say the missile can be fired about three to four days after fueling begins.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted unidentified officials as saying the North had moved a squadron of MiG-23 fighter jets to a base near the launch site in what appeared to be a response to Japan's deployment. Seoul's Defense Ministry declined to confirm the reports.

An English version said the U.S. forces could be hit in a retaliatory strike against Japan.

North Korea says it will send a communications satellite into orbit on a multistage rocket sometime from Saturday to Wednesday. The U.S., South Korea and Japan think the reclusive country is using the launch to test long-range missile technology; they've warned the move would violate a Security Council resolution banning the North from ballistic activity.

Regional powers have also begun to deploy ships to monitor the launch, and Japan is preparing to intercept any debris that might fall if the launch goes awry — moves that have prompted several threats of retaliation from Pyongyang, including one Thursday.

The North countered with its own warnings against any efforts to intercept the rocket, take the issue to the Security Council or even monitor the launch. It says its armed forces are at a high level of combat-readiness.

The North has said debris from the rocket could fall off Japan's northern coast, so Tokyo has deployed battleships with anti-missile systems to the area and set up Patriot missile interceptors. It says it has no intention of trying to shoot down the rocket itself.

"If Japan imprudently carries out an act of intercepting our peaceful satellite, our people's army will hand a thunderbolt of fire to not only interceptor means already deployed, but also key targets," said a report Thursday by the North's official Korean Central News Agency that quoted the general staff of its military.

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