FILE - In this Sunday, April 15, 2012 file photo, a North Korean vehicle carrying a missile passes by during a mass military parade in Pyongyang's Kim Il Sung Square to celebrate the centenary of the birth of the late North Korean founder Kim Il Sung. North Korea has moved a missile with "considerable range" to its east coast, South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin said Thursday, April 4, 2013 but he added that there are no signs that Pyongyang is preparing for a full-scale conflict. The report came hours after North Korea's military warned that it has been authorized to attack the U.S. using "smaller, lighter and diversified" nuclear weapons. It was the North's latest war cry against America in recent weeks, with the added suggestion that it had improved its nuclear technology. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder, File)

BEIRUT, LEBANON (5:10 P.M.) – A South Korean military official said North Korea is continuing to develop its missile capabilities, amid speculation that Pyongyang may unveil a new strategic weapon next month.

During a hearing at the National Assembly on Wednesday, South Korea’s Defense Minister candidate, General Soo-ok, said that North Korea continues to develop its missile capabilities, pledging to respond firmly to any provocations.

“North Korea is focusing on preparations for the ruling party’s anniversary event, after suspending military action plans against the South in June. But as military activities continue, including missile development, we are closely monitoring related moves,” he added.

This comes amid speculation that North Korea may offer a new strategic weapon on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the founding of the ruling party on October 10, according to the Yonhap agency.

The candidate said that the military will respond firmly to any provocations or threats while supporting inter-Korean exchanges to support peace efforts on the Korean Peninsula.

He pledged to promote the alliance between South Korea and the United States and defense cooperation with other neighboring countries in order to bring peace to the region.

“Building on the strong alliance between South Korea and the United States, we will actively accelerate the transfer of the Wartime Operations Command (OPCON) from the United States to South Korea,” he said.

South Korea is seeking to transfer the right to command in wartime operations before the current Moon Jae-in administration ends in May 2022.

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