China and Russia urge North Korea to step back from missile launch
North Korea's two closest allies, China and Russia, have put pressure on Pyongyang to step back from launching a missile, the South Korean Foreign minister has said.
Yun Byung-se told the South Korean parliament that there had been "close coordination" between Seoul, Beijing and Moscow on a diplomatic solution to the current tensions.
"Throughout close coordination with China and Russia, the Korean government has been continuing to make efforts to persuade North Korea to change its attitude," he said.
China, which is North Korea's last major ally, has warned twice in recent days that Pyongyang must dial back its rhetoric. Wang Yi, the Chinese Foreign minister, told Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, that China would not tolerate "troublemaking at the doorstep".
Xi Jinping, the new Chinese president, said on Sunday that no country "should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gain".
On Wednesday, Chinese tours into North Korea were cancelled, cutting off another source of foreign currency and possibly hinting at China's displeasure over the North's behaviour.
Foreign tours were allowed to proceed and flights were running as normal from Beijing to Pyongyang, suggesting that it was not North Korea that was banning travel.
Mr Yun added that South Korean and American intelligence had confirmed that a medium range Musudan ballistic missile is now ready for launch on North Korea's east coast.
"The possibility of a missile launch by North Korea is very high," he said, adding that the United Nations Security Council would meet immediately if the missile is fired.
According to satellite images, four or five missile launchers have been recently spotted in South Hamgyong province and some analysts suggested that North Korea could fire either short or medium range missiles into the sea, or both.
However the stream of war threats emanating from North Korea's propaganda department has slowed, with no new belligerent statements in the last two days. No foreign embassies have pulled out of Pyongyang and neither America or Japan has advised its citizens to avoid Seoul.
According to the DailyNK, a website that has reliable North Korean contacts, the authorities have ended the mobilisation of the North's reserve soldiers and are now preparing for farming season.
"All reserve forces have been sent back to their places of work and the annual drive to gather manure for biological fertilizer is well underway," reported the Daily NK.
A source in Chongjin told the website: "The reserves who had been mobilised for combat exercises over the past few months all returned their weapons to their local Ministry of People's Safety (the police) office arms store on the 1st and went back to work. Each province, county and city is now working on producing fertiliser."
At Kaesong, the shared industrial park that was closed down by the North earlier this week, sources told the DailyNK that workers had been instructed to rest a few days before preparing for the celebrations for the anniversary of Kim Il-sung's birth, known as the Day of the Sun, next Monday. After that, they had been assured, work would recommence at the plant.
"The workers expect that the zone will soon start again, and nobody is worried about losing their jobs," a source said.