By Carlo Muñoz - 04/08/13 05:53 PM EDT
Pyongyang is still preparing to launch several long-range missiles positioned on the eastern coast of the peninsula, which could happen as soon as next week, South Korean military analysts said Monday.
On Sunday, South Korean Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae said there were concerns those missiles could be ballistic, citing recent intelligence that North Korea was preparing for a new round of nuclear wepaons testing, according to regional news reports.
Recent orders by North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un to shutter the joint Kaesong Industrial Complex to the 51,000 North Koreans who work at the site last week was seen by Seoul as preparation for a nuclear test.
But South Korea has since backed off those claims, but still maintain Kim will move forward with the conventional missile tests to commemorate the birthday of former North Korean leader Kim Il Sung on April 15.
As a result, Army Gen. James Thurman, head of U.S. Forces Korea, has canceled a scheduled appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee this week, to remain on the peninsula in anticipation of the tests.
The decision to move forward with the missile drills comes days after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel postponed tests of the Minuteman 3 intercontinental ballistic missile at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
The delay was designed to tamp down tensions with Pyongyang, a senior defense official told The Associated Press, which first reported the delay.
However, Hagel's decision was "absolutely not" a sign the White House was giving in to North Korea's recent military aggressiveness in the Pacific, senior Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer said during an appearance on "Fox News Sunday."
"North Korea is engaging in the kind of behavior we have seen for many, many years: provocative actions and bellicose rhetoric," Pfeiffer said. But those actions, he added, will only "further isolate" Pyongyang within the international community.
The United States has already deployed a ballistic missile defense system to Guam and moved Navy ships, armed with anti-missile weaponry, off the Korean peninsula.
In response, Kim has reportedly given his military the green light to launch nuclear strikes against U.S. allies in the Pacific and targets inside the United States.