May 7, 2013 - 09:01 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - North Korea has removed two medium-range missiles from a coastal launch site, indicating a lowering of tension on the peninsula, a U.S. official said, according to BBC News.
Pyongyang was believed to be preparing for a launch last month, having threatened attacks in the region. The threats followed tough new UN sanctions imposed on North Korea in March after its third nuclear test.
It had also been angered by wide-ranging annual U.S.-South Korea military drills, which ended a week ago.
The news that the missiles had been removed from the site on the east coast came on the eve of a summit in Washington between the U.S. and South Korean presidents.
Park Geun-hye is to hold talks with Barack Obama later on Tuesday, May 7, with the two expected to reiterate a commitment to strong ties. Park, who took office in February, will also address the US Congress on Wednesday.
The Musudan missiles had been ready to launch at any moment but North Korea had now "moved them", an unnamed U.S. defense official told AFP news agency.
A report from South Korea's Yonhap news agency, citing an unnamed senior government source, backed that up, saying Pyongyang appeared to have lifted its highest combat alert and moved the missiles, although their current location was not confirmed.
The move is the most tangible sign yet that North Korea has stepped back from its threats to launch missiles, the BBC says. But a senior U.S. official from the National Security Council warned that, given the North's unpredictable behavior, it was "premature to celebrate it as good news".
Pentagon spokesman George Little, who declined to comment directly on the missiles' reported removal, told journalists "what we have seen recently is a provocation pause".
"And we think that's obviously beneficial to efforts to ensure we have peace and stability on the Korean peninsula," he added.
North Korea unveiled medium-range Musudan missiles during a military parade in 2010 but had not yet tested them. At least one ballistic missile with an estimated 3,000km (2,000-mile) range had been fuelled and ready for launch, according to U.S. and South Korean sources.
A test launch would be a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1718, passed in 2006, which states the North "must not conduct any further nuclear test or launch of a ballistic missile".