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N Korea at crossroads

Warnings of North Korean 'satellite' launch grow stronger

US and South Korean governments say they are monitoring the situation

South Korea's military said it is carefully monitoring North Korean nuclear and missile facilities such as the Sanumdong research center on the outskirts of Pyongyang, seen here in a satellite image captured on Feb. 22.   © AP

SEOUL -- Warnings that North Korea may be preparing to launch a "satellite rocket" from both the U.S. and South Korean governments are growing stronger, with images showing movements of parts from the Sanumdong missile research facility near Pyongyang to a launch site in the northwestern coastal town of Tongchang-ri.

South Korea's Defense Ministry said on Monday that it was watching the facilities closely. The country's intelligence service reported to the national assembly last week that it had observed movements of materials at the Sanumdong facility.

North Korea last launched an intercontinental ballistic missile in November 2017, broadcasting the event. But previous "projectile" launches were de facto long-range missile tests, as the fundamental techniques for launching ballistic missiles and other rockets are similar.

The South Korean newspaper JoongAng Ilbo cited a government official saying that there were similar movements in North Korea before previous rocket launches. The official added that Pyongyang had acquired the ability to manufacture observation satellites from China and elsewhere.

The U.S. is also monitoring the situation, National Security Advisor John Bolton said in an ABC interview on Mar. 10., adding that President Donald Trump would be very disappointed if North Korean leader Kim Jong Un resumed weapons testing.

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