N. Korea 'preparing to launch new missile'

JAPAN - North Korea has transported what are believed to be components for a ballistic missile to a launch site in what appears to be preparation for a missile launch, according to Japanese government sources.

The United States informed Japan, among others, that its intelligence satellite this month showed what appeared to be evidence of parts similar to those used in a missile launched from Tongchang-ri, North Korea, in April being brought to the same launch site.

Japan, the United States and other countries are trying to confirm if the components are for a ballistic missile, the sources said. Since the parts arrived, activity around the site has intensified, the sources added.

In April, North Korea launched a ballistic missile it claimed was a satellite from the Tongchang-ri launch site, in the northwestern part of the country, but the launch failed as the rocket blew up shortly after taking off.

About one month before the April launch, North Korea announced it would launch an observation satellite. It also informed the International Civil Aviation Organisation and the International Maritime Organisation of the plan.

Pyongyang has yet to make a similar announcement for a future missile launch. "We're currently collecting various kinds of information carefully," a Japanese government source said Friday.

Japan restarted bilateral talks with North Korea for the first time in four years on November 15.

However, if Pyongyang launches a missile again, such an action would make it difficult to continue the talks.

"North Korea should act in accordance with the statement of the UN Security Council president [that condemned North Korea's missile launch in April]," a senior foreign ministry official said.

Some sources said North Korea would not launch a missile so soon after the appointment of new leadership in China, with which Pyongyang has a close relationship.

Some observers believe North Korea's latest move is meant to intimidate Japan, South Korea and the United States ahead of a House of Representatives election in Japan in December, a South Korean presidential election in the same month and the start of newly reelected US President Barack Obama's new administration in January, the sources said.

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