WASHINGTON. KAZINFORM - North Korea could test-launch a long-range ballistic missile within a couple of weeks, claiming that it is a rocket carrying a satellite, a U.S. government official said Thursday.
"We've seen signs of activity" at a missile launch site in Tongchang-ri in the northwest, a U.S. government official said on condition of anonymity. "It suggests that there could be a launch within a couple of weeks," the official said.
"They use the space launch name as a pretext to cover the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles, things that could threaten the United States," the official said.
The official also said North Korea would notify other countries of the launch plan in advance, rather than launching a missile abruptly.
Movements of vehicles believed to be used to carry fuel and a workforce buildup have been confirmed at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, according to a diplomatic source.
North Korea test-launched what many countries believed to be a long-range ballistic missile from the station in December 2012.
Preparations observed in North Korea do not seem to be at an imminent stage such as fuel injection into a missile, a U.S. official involved in national defense said.
North Korea conducted a fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6 in defiance of past U.N. Security Council resolutions and the council is currently weighing a response.
Meanwhile, a Washington institute monitoring North Korea said on its 38 North website that imagery from Jan. 11 to 18 showed tire tracks in the snow suggesting that material or personnel had been delivered to the launch site from a rail station.
The U.S.-Korea Institute of Johns Hopkins University said, "If Pyongyang is preparing for a rocket launch, available imagery indicates that a launch is not imminent and that the North may be at an early stage of preparation."
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