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Russia Says Expecting New North Korea Missile Test

North Korean leader Kim Yong-il is reportedly formulating plans for his son to succeed him.
SEOUL (Reuters) -- Russia has information on North Korean plans to launch a ballistic missile but does not know when it will take place, Interfax news agency quoted a senior Russian military source as saying.

The news comes as South Korea's defense minister said the North's recent moves were linked to leader Kim Jong-il's succession plans, and as world powers at the United Nations edged towards an agreement on how to punish Pyonyang.

North Korea has angered the region and beyond in the past few weeks with missile launches, threats to attack the South and a nuclear test, prompting U.S. and South Korean forces to raise a military alert on the peninsula to one of its highest since the 1950-53 Korean War.

Cranking up tension, Russia's military said it had information on plans for another missile launch.

"We have certain information about the type and characteristics of the missile. However, we do not have accurate data on the timing," Interfax news agency quoted a senior military source as saying.

South Korean Defense Minister Lee Sang-hee, meanwhile, linked the North's threats and flurry of military activity to Kim Jong-il paving the way for his son to succeed him.

"Kim Jong-il is bloodshot in the eyes trying to build a succession plan to pass on power by creating tension ... while ignoring the desperate plight of his starving people and the impoverished state of the economy," he said in an address to troops, according to a military aide on June 10. "The North Korean regime is an unethical, irresponsible and inhumane group which puts its own survival ahead of the lives and happiness of the people."

Briefed On Succession

South Korean lawmakers said they were briefed by the South's spy agency and told the North's leaders have started the groundwork that would allow Kim's youngest son, Swiss-educated Jong-un, to take over power.

Analysts said the show of military strength might help leader Kim, 67, divert attention from an faltering economy that has only grown worse under his rule and also boost support after a suspected stroke about a year ago raised questions over his iron grip on power.

His economy could take another hit as the United States and Japan have pushed for strong sanctions to punish North Korea for its nuclear test, but China and Russia have been cautious about provoking Pyongyang by imposing more sanctions.

North Korea appeared to be ready to ratchet up tensions by firing a long-range missile that could reach U.S. territory and midrange missiles capable of striking anywhere in the South and most of Japan, officials said.

North Korean state media said the state would press on with boosting its nuclear deterrence to counter what it saw as hostile moves by a nuclear-armed United States.

The U.S. special envoy on North Korea, Stephen Bosworth, said in New York that the United States will do what is necessary for the security of its allies but has no plans to invade the North or overthrow its government by force.

In an indication of growing concern for possible aggression by the North, South Korea has doubled the deployment of naval destroyers and patrol vessels in disputed waters off the peninsula's west coast, a report in the South Korean daily "Dong-A Ilbo" said on June 10.

North Korean vessels last week intruded into the South's territorial waters, retreating after warning maneuvers by South Korea's Navy. The area off the west coast of the peninsula has been the site of two deadly naval battles between the rival states over the past 10 years.