SEOUL, Jan. 30 (Yonhap) -- North Korea looks set to launch a Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) instead of a long-range one as it still has to master the related technologies, military officials said Monday.
"There are no signs of an imminent test firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) by North Korea. But we are closely monitoring any new military activities in the country as it could launch an IRBM at any time if leader Kim Jong-un gives the order," an official at the defense ministry said.
This year, North Korea has said that it is ready to fire off an ICBM.
In his New Year's Day address, Kim said that the country has entered the final stage of preparations to test-fire an ICBM, an apparent threat that the communist state is close to developing a nuclear-tipped missile capable of striking the continental U.S.
Last week, the South and the U.S. picked up indications that the North has placed two ICBMs on mobile launchers, an indication that the test could come earlier than expected.
But the ministry interpreted the move as part of the North's efforts to draw attention from the new Donald Trump administration. It added that any launch will probably be aimed at mastering know-how linked to the Musudan.
Pyongyang test-fired a total of eight Musudan missiles between April and October last year, with only one flying any distance.
Experts said Pyongyang's first test of an ICBM, whose main engine has only recently been seen on the ground, will almost certainly end in failure, referring to the two mobile ICBMs.
The predictions are based on North Korea's past track record and the fact that Pyongyang has never flight-tested the KN-08 or KN-14 long-range missiles.