North Korea is believed to be preparing to launch a missile before a joint naval drill by the US and South Korea, a news report said on Saturday, citing a government source. The US navy said on Friday that a US aircraft carrier will lead the drill next week, a fresh show of force against North Korea as tensions soar over the hermit state’s weapons programme. The move is likely to rile Pyongyang which has previously responded angrily to joint exercises. The Donga newspaper, quoting a government source, said satellite pictures show missiles mounted on launchers being transported out of hangars near Pyongyang and in North Phyongan Province. US and South Korean military officials suspect the North might be preparing to launch missiles capable of reaching US territory, the newspaper said. A defence ministry spokesman declined to comment on the report, saying: “We don’t comment on any matters of military intelligence”. “We are keeping a close watch over the North”, he said. The joint drills led by the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier come after hectic US military hardware movements around the Korean peninsula in recent days. Professor Yang Moo-jin of the University of North Korean Studies said it was “highly likely” that the North could launch missiles in response to next week’s joint navy drill. US President Donald Trump’s continued threats of military action against Pyongyang if it does not tame its weapons ambitions have fuelled fears of conflict on the Korean peninsula. But military intervention against North Korea would have “devastating consequences”, Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg warned on Friday, after Trump said diplomatic efforts had failed.
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