North Korea recently set a no-sail zone in the waters off its eastern coastal city of Wonsan, effective from Nov. 11 to Dec. 7, a government source said Sunday, spawning concerns that the communist state could test-launch a rocket.
"Pyongyang has declared a wide no-sail zone in the East Sea area, and we are looking at the possibility of the North launching a Scud missile or a new type of a ballistic missile," the source said, declining to be named.
Some observers raised the possibility that the North could conduct a test to develop a submarine-launched ballistic missile. In May, the North conducted an ejection test of the SLBM. Seoul believes it would take four to five years for the North to fully develop and deploy the SLBM.
The North was expected to launch a long-range rocket under the pretext of space development around Oct. 10 to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of its ruling Workers Party. It has argued it has the "sovereign right" to launch a satellite.
But the North did not push ahead with the satellite launch, amid pressure from Seoul, Washington and Beijing on it to desist from the launch.
Some argued that even though the North declared a no-sail zone, it might not conduct any launch that would put it in a difficult diplomatic position. In August, the North set a no-sail zone and put its ship-to-ship missiles and coastal artillery in a combat-ready position, but it did not fire them.
Should Pyongyang engage in yet another provocation, it would hamper the emerging mood for inter-Korean co-operation and exchanges, analysts said. It would also strain ties with China, which the North has recently sought to restore.