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Page last updated at 12:20 GMT, Monday, 1 June 2009 13:20 UK

N Korea 'prepares missile launch'

Anti-missile poster in Seoul
N Korea's nuclear test and missile launches have caused concern

North Korea is reportedly moving closer to launching another long-range missile, despite international concern.

South Korean media say the North has moved its most advanced missile to a new launch site on the west coast.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said there were signs of work being done on a long-range missile, but he said the North's intentions were not yet clear.

A regional summit has convened in South Korea to discuss the North's recent nuclear and missile tests.

After the opening day of the summit, the leaders there agreed that North Korea's recent nuclear test was a "provocation" which "seriously undermines peace and stability in north-east Asia and the world," according to South Korea's presidential office.

'No sail' zone

North Korea could fire the missile as early as 16 June, according to the Dong-a Ilbo and JoongAng Ilbo newspapers.

map

The missile is believed to be a version of the Taepodong-2 rocket which was fired on 5 April.

It has a range of up to 6,500km (4,000 miles), the JoongAng Ilbo reported, which would put Alaska within striking range.

According to South Korea's Yonhap news agency, the missile has been moved to the Dongchang-ni launch base, about 65km (40 miles) from the Chinese border.

The Chosun Ilbo added that North Korea had also designated a large area off its west coast a "no-sail" zone until the end of July.

Other reports say there has been increased activity around military bases in the area and that troops have been ordered to increase their stocks of ammunition.

Monday's newspaper reports said North Korea's construction of the new launch site at Dongchang-ni was now near to completion.

Some of the leaders at the Seogwipo conference
South Korea is hosting a regional summit at Seogwipo, S Korea

Previous long-range missiles have been fired from a site on the country's north-east coast.

The North Koreans may believe the new test site's location in the north-west, close to the Chinese border, makes it less vulnerable to attack, says the BBC's Chris Hogg in Seoul.

Regional fears

The international community is becoming increasingly concerned with North Korea's actions.

On 5 April, the North launched a long-range rocket which flew over Japan before crashing into the Pacific Ocean, drawing intense international criticism.

Last Monday it carried out an underground nuclear test, and then tested a series of short-range missiles.

ESCALATING TENSIONS
27 May - North Korea says it is abandoning the truce that ended the Korean war and reportedly test-fires another missile
26 May - The North test-fires short-range missiles as South Korea announces it will join a US-led initiative to control trafficking in weapons of mass destruction
26 May - President Barack Obama pledges military support for America's East Asian allies, as the UN condemns the nuclear test
25 May - North Korea stages its second nuclear test, triggering international condemnation
29 April - Pyongyang threatens to carry out a nuclear test unless the UN apologises for criticising its recent rocket launch
14 April - Pyongyang says it is ending talks on its nuclear activities and will restore its disabled nuclear reactor after UN criticism of its rocket launch
5 April - The North goes ahead with a controversial rocket launch, seen by major governments as a cover for a long-range missile test

Further heightening tensions between the US and North Korea is the start of the trial in Pyongyang on Thursday of two American journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, accused of entering the country illegally and engaging in "hostile acts".

After meeting US Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg in Tokyo, Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Mitoji Yabunaka said: "We absolutely cannot accept that North Korea will have nuclear weapons".

Mr Steinberg called Pyongyang's recent actions "highly destabilising".

Hosting a summit of South-East Asian leaders in Seogwipo, South Korea, President Lee Myung-bak warned the North against further provocative acts.

"If North Korea turns its back on dialogue and peace and dares to carry out military threats and provocations, the Republic of Korea [South Korea] will never tolerate that," he said.

Our correspondent says the gathering offers an opportunity to Mr Lee to shore up support for the fact he has taken a tougher stance against North Korea than his predecessor did.

The hardline North, under President Kim Jong-il, has threatened military action against the South after Seoul's decision to join a US-led security initiative under which North Korean ships could be stopped and searched.

Pyongyang says Seoul's decision to join the PSI is tantamount to an act of war.

US and South Korean troops are currently on high alert after the North said it was no longer bound by the truce that ended the Korean war in 1953.



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