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US: Photos show activity at North Korean missile site: US

30 May 2009 2:28 AM

WASHINGTON, May 29 AFP - US satellite photos have revealed vehicle activity at a site in North Korea, suggesting the regime may be preparing to launch a long-range ballistic missile, two US defence officials say.

The vehicle movements resembled work done before North Korea fired a long-range rocket last month, the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP on Friday.

The officials offered no other details but said the United States is closely monitoring North Korea's missile sites and other sensitive facilities amid rising tensions on the peninsula following Pyongyang's nuclear test on Monday.

The officials also said there was no steam or other tell-tale sign coming from the Yongbyon plutonium reprocessing plant, but it remains unclear if the regime has restarted work at the facility.

North Korea on Friday fired a short-range missile and threatened to take new measures to defend itself if world powers impose sanctions for its latest nuclear test.

Tensions have been running high since Kim Jong-Il's regime tested an atomic bomb for the second time and renounced the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953.

The launch of the long-range rocket in April was portrayed by Pyongyang as a peaceful move to test a communications satellite. But the United States and its allies said the launch was meant to be a test of a long-range missile.

Japan said the rocket flew over its territory while the boosters landed safely in the waters off its coast, and that it had not moved to intercept the rocket -- something North Korea had warned would be seen as an act of war.

Pyongyang's Taepodong-2 missile could theoretically reach the US states of Alaska or Hawaii at maximum range, though experts say North Korea has likely not managed to configure a warhead for it yet.