SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea fired five short-range missiles during military training last week, a South Korean newspaper reported Monday, as the top U.S. general in the South warned that Pyongyang could conduct a second nuclear test.
The North fired the ground-to-air and air-to-ground missiles, with ranges from 6 to 30 miles, as part of an annual training session, the newspaper Chosun Ilbo said, citing an unidentified government official.
The North fired a series of longer-range missiles in July, including an intercontinental ballistic missile that many believe could potentially hit the United States.
The report comes amid speculation that North Korea may be preparing to conduct a second nuclear test following its first on Oct. 9.
U.S. Army Gen. B.B. Bell said at a news conference Monday that a second test is possible, though he didn't cite any specific intelligence that another test was imminent.
"I can only surmise that since they tested one, we would see at some time in the future yet another test of a nuclear device," Bell said, adding that missiles and other weapons also could be tested.
"I think we can expect future tests as part of their program to develop these kinds of very provocative weapons," he said.
South Korean media reported Saturday that authorities had detected the movement of trucks and soldiers at a suspected test site in northeastern North Korea.
Bell was firm that the U.S. and South Korean allied forces could deter aggression from the North and defeat any possible attack. Still, he called for a diplomatic solution to the standoff.
"I wish that North Korea would not only stop testing these devices, but stop making them and come back to the bargaining table," he said.
Six-country talks on the North's nuclear program stalled last November when Pyongyang refused to attend, protesting a U.S. crackdown on its alleged illicit financial activities.
North Korea has said it would only return to the talks, which involve China, Japan, the Koreas, Russia and the United States, if the financial restrictions were lifted.
The international community reacted quickly to the North's underground nuclear test, with the U.N. Security Council on Oct. 14 unanimously passing a resolution that bans the sale of major arms to the North and calls for the inspection of cargo entering and leaving the country.
It also calls for the freezing of assets of businesses supplying North Korea's nuclear and ballistic weapons programs, as well as restrictions on sales of luxury goods and travel bans on North Korean officials.
The United States has been trying muster greater support for the U.N. resolution.
Seoul and Beijing have been reluctant to enforce harsh sanctions over the test for fear they might antagonize their unpredictable neighbor and destabilize the region, though Seoul last week banned the entry of North Korean officials and said it would impose some financial controls relating to inter-Korean trade and investment.
China and South Korea are the North's main aid providers and trade partners, and their participation is considered crucial for the success of the U.N. resolution.