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Increased activity at N Korea launch site

27 November 2012, 12:11

Washington - A new satellite image shows a marked increase in activity at a North Korean missile launch site, pointing to a possible long-range ballistic missile test by Pyongyang in the next three weeks, according to satellite operator DigitalGlobe Incorporated.

The imagery was released days after a Japanese newspaper, the Asahi Shimbun, reported that US intelligence analysts had detected moves that were seen as preparation by North Korea for a long-range missile launch as early as this month.

DigitalGlobe, which provides commercial satellite imagery to the US government and foreign governments, on Monday released a new image that it said showed increased activity at North Korea's Sohae (West Sea) Satellite Launch Station.

It said the imagery showed more people, trucks and other equipment at the site, a level of activity that was consistent with preparations seen before North Korea's failed 13 April rocket launch.

"Given the observed level of activity noted of a new tent, trucks, people and numerous portable fuel/oxidiser tanks, should North Korea desire, it could possibly conduct its fifth satellite launch event during the next three weeks," DigitalGlobe said in a statement accompanying the image.

A Pentagon spokesperson declined to comment on the reported satellite images, but said the Defence Department's position on North Korea's missile development efforts had not changed.

Long-range missile

She urged North Korea to comply with UN Security Council resolutions that "require Pyongyang to suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile programme in a complete, verifiable, and irreversible manner, and re-establish its moratorium on missile launching".

North Korea, which carried out nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009 and is under heavy UN sanctions for its atomic weapons programme, has tried for years to influence major events in South Korea by waging propaganda or armed attacks. South Korea is gearing up for a presidential election on 19 December.

North and South Korea have been technically at war since their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, and regional powers have for years been trying to rein in the North's nuclear programme.

North Korea is believed to be developing a long-range ballistic missile with a range of up to 6 700 aimed at hitting the continental United States but the last two rocket test launches failed.

In April, under its new leader Kim Jong-Un, North Korea launched a rocket that flew just a few minutes covering a little over 100km before crashing into the sea between South Korea and China.

- Reuters

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