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Japan: North Korea preparing missile launch within the week

Satellite photos from Japan have shown suspicious activity at North Korea's launch site. The move comes after a nuclear test carried out despite a UN ban.

Japanese government reports released on Thursday indicated that North Korea may be readying a long-range missile launch as soon as within the week. The discovery follows a month of diplomatic tensions between the US and China following a nuclear test carried about by Pyongyang that first rang international alarm bells.

Images collected by Japan show hurried movement in and out of the Dongchang-ri launch site, according to Kyodo News, citing an anonymous government source. Following the lead of the United States, Japan began monitoring the isolationist authoritarian nation by satellite in 2003.

Although North Korea is banned from using ballistic missile technology by a series of UN Security Council resolutions, several short-range tests have been carried out without consequence.

A second indication that the launch could be made within the week is that the site appears to have been covered up, just as it was in 2012 to hide preparations for the initiation of Pyongyang's first satellite.

Earlier this month, North Korea caused international consternation with by conducting its fourth nuclear test, putting Washington-Beijing relations to the test as the US called on China to reign in its small neighbor. While China has long been Pyongyang's most important protector, ties have become increasingly precarious in recent years as North Korea refuses to abandon its ambition for nuclear weapons.

es/jil (AFP, Reuters)

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