North Korea appears to be preparing for a long-range missile test, defying the U.N. Security Council whose members are negotiating a resolution to punish it for its recent nuclear test, Yonhap News Agency reported Saturday, quoting an informed intelligence source.
The source, asking not to be identified, said an object that appeared to be an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) was recently spotted on a cargo train at an artillery research center near Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.
"We believe that the object is certainly an ICBM," said the official, adding that its size is somewhat similar to the one the North fired into the Pacific on April 5.
North Korea is believed to have started moving the object to a missile launch pad in Musudan-ri on the country's east coast, according to the official.
"The missile may be a modified version of a Taepodong-2 missile, which can travel over 4,000 km," the official said. A Taepodong-2 missile is theoretically capable of reaching the western U.S.
"It usually takes about two months to set up a launch pad, but the process could be done in as little as two weeks, which means the North could launch a long-range missile as early as mid-June," the source said.
The developments of what appears to be preparations for a missile launch follow Monday's nuclear test, which drew the international community's condemnation against North Korea. The test came less than two months after it fired a rocket that the U.S. and its allies say was a disguised form of an intercontinental ballistic missile.
The remarks came shortly after a South Korean defense source in Singapore said some activities were spotted at a North Korean munitions factory used to build long-range missiles.
Some watchers speculate that North Korea may launch a missile at a time close to a summit set for June 16 between South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and his U.S. counterpart, Barack Obama.
"There is a possibility that North Korea may push the 'fire' button right before or after the South Korea-U.S. summit," said a key diplomatic official at the presidential office, requesting to be unnamed. -- The Korea Times