Saturday, May 30, 2009

Long-range test to come?

Pyongyang's Taepodong-2 (left) missile could theoretically reach the US states of Alaska or Hawaii at maximum range. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL - NORTH Korea is apparently preparing for a long-range missile test which may come within two weeks, a news report said here on Saturday.

'A train carrying a long-range missile has been spotted at the weapons research centre near Pyongyang,' an unidentified intelligence source was quoted as saying by Yonhap news agency.

'It is highly likely that the North may fire (the missile) and South Korean and US intelligence authorities are watching closely,' the source told Yonhap.

The source said it was expected to take about two weeks before the North places the missile on a launch pad and gets it ready to be fired, adding the US and South Korea were closely monitoring North Korea's missile sites. US satellite photos have revealed vehicle activity at two sites in North Korea suggesting the regime may be preparing to launch a long-range ballistic missile, two US defense officials said on Friday.

The vehicle movements resembled work done before North Korea fired a long-range rocket last month, the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

Officials earlier had confirmed activity at one facility. One of the sites was located in the west and the second in the east of the country.

The defense officials offered no other details but said the United States was closely monitoring North Korea's missile sites and other sensitive facilities amid rising tensions on the peninsula.

The officials also said there was no steam or other tell-tale sign coming from the Yongbyon plutonium reprocessing plant but it remained unclear if the regime had restarted work at the plant.

Tensions have been running high since Kim Jong-Il's regime tested an atomic bomb for the second time and renounced the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953. -- AFP

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