North Korea may be preparing to launch a long-range Taepodong ballistic missile that could have the capacity to reach all of the United States, Japanese national broadcaster NHK reported on Friday.
Quoting unidentified South Korean government officials, NHK said satellite pictures showed there have been signs since early this month around a launch site in northeastern North Korea that pointed to a possible firing in the near future.
South Korea’s defense ministry said it could not confirm the report. Japanese officials have not commented.
The missile appeared to be the Taepodong-2, which has the longest range in North Korea’s arsenal, and if it is a modified version it may have a range of 15,000 km (9,300 miles), which would cover all of the United States, NHK said.
Quoting Japanese government sources, Japan’s Kyodo news agency also said a launch could be imminent.
North Korea shocked the international community in August 1998 when it fired a Taepodong missile that flew over Japan before falling into the Pacific Ocean.
The latest development comes amid a deadlock in six-party talks aimed at dismantling North Korea’s nuclear programs, and ahead of a visit to China next week by the chief U.S. negotiator to the multilateral talks.
The talks involve the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, Russia and host China.
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