North Korea may be preparing for space launch, say US officials

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North Korea may be planning to launch a new ballistic missile — or even a space vehicle — in the coming days or weeks, according to new reports.

Multiple outlets on Thursday cited government officials warning that intelligence and satellite imagery indicated that the reclusive Asian nation could be making preparations for a new launch.

A Japanese official speaking to Kyodo News claimed that satellite surveillance shows the groundwork being laid for a launch as soon as next week, U.S. outlets reported.

A new long-range missile test is “likely” to come “abruptly,” South Korean defense spokesman Kim Min-seok told reporters on Thursday, according to Yonhap

The Japanese Yomiuri Shimbun reported that South Korean officials have spotted freight trains running from its missile factories to a satellite launching station in Tongchang-ri.

But Pyongyang is likely well aware that its actions are being watched, a South Korean government source told the newspaper, and the movements may be an attempt to “take a provocative stance and threaten the international community.” 

U.S. officials, however, believe that the early preparations may be a sign that the government is on the verge of space launch, according to Reuters.

"Our concern though is that they do a space launch, but really it's the same technology to develop [ballistic missiles],” one anonymous official told the news agency. 

North Korea created similar global outrage earlier this month after announcing it had detonated a hydrogen bomb. The U.N. Security Council is currently considering new sanctions in response to that Jan. 6 test.

In 2012, North Korea used a rocket to send a satellite into orbit, which the U.S. and its partners called a violation of U.N. Security Council sanctions barring ballistic missile tests.

Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryJohnson links Dem opponent to Clinton email scandal Senate poised to override Obama veto Overnight Defense: Debate night is here | Senate sets vote on 9/11 veto override | Kerry, McCain spar over Syria MORE was in China this week, where North Korea loomed large. China has long been North Korea’s closest ally on the international stage, and Beijing has repeatedly protected its neighbor from harsher international condemnation.