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(2nd LD) N.K. could conduct long-range missile launch in a week: Japanese news report

All News 06:19 January 28, 2016

(ATTN: INCORPORATES story slugged US-NK missile test)
By Chang Jae-soon

WASHINGTON, Jan. 27 (Yonhap) -- North Korea could conduct a long-range missile launch as early as in a week, a Japanese news report said Wednesday, in what would be serious defiance against the international community just a few weeks after its fourth nuclear test.

Kyodo News Agency cited an unidentified Japanese government source as saying that satellite imagery analyses conducted over the past several days suggest the North may be preparing to conduct a ballistic missile launch from the Dongchang-ri launch site in the country's northwest.

The source also cautioned that the launch could occur in about a week at the earliest, Kyodo said.

The report did not provide any further specifics.

The U.S. Defense Department declined comment on intelligence matters, but urged the North to refrain from any actions threatening regional stability.

"While I won't discuss matters of intelligence, I will say that the we urge North Korea to refrain from actions and rhetoric that threaten regional peace and security and focus instead on taking concrete steps toward fulfilling its international commitments and obligations," Cmdr. Bill Urban, a spokesman of the U.S. Defense Department, told Yonhap News Agency.

"We are concerned that additional North Korean provocations could heighten tensions, lead to a cycle of escalation and threaten the peace and stability on the Peninsula," he said.

Such a launch would add to international outrage over the North's Jan. 6 nuclear test. The U.N. Security Council is working on a new set of sanctions on Pyongyang, and the U.S. is also working on unilateral sanctions to punish the regime.

The North's missile program has long been a key security concern in the region and beyond.

The communist nation is believed to have developed advanced ballistic missile technologies through a series of test launches, including the most recent and successful launch in 2012.

That test sparked fears that the North has moved closer to ultimately developing nuclear-tipped missiles that could potentially reach the mainland United States. The country has so far conducted four underground nuclear tests in 2006, 2009, 2013 and this month.

Pyongyang claimed that the latest nuclear test involved a hydrogen bomb, a more sophisticated type of nuclear weapon with much greater yields than ordinary atomic weapons. But the U.S. has cast doubts about the claim, saying initial analysis is not consistent with the North's claims.

In the run-up to October's 70th anniversary of the founding of the North's ruling Workers' Party, fears had grown that the North could conduct its fourth nuclear test or a long-range rocket launch, but the country didn't do so at the time.

jschang@yna.co.kr
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