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DPRK missile at launch site

THE Democratic People's Republic of Korea has transported its most advanced missile, believed to be capable of reaching Alaska, to a site where it could be ready for launch in a week or two, according to reports yesterday.

The country was also said to be strengthening its defenses and conducting amphibious assault exercises along its western shore, near disputed waters where deadly naval clashes with the Republic of Korea have occurred in the past.

With the launch, North Korea could also thumb its nose at United Nations Security Council attempts to rein it in after last week's nuclear test and a series of short-range missile launches.

South Korean media have speculated that the North wants to time the launch for around June 16, when South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has a summit meeting in Washington with United States President Barack Obama.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency said the missile had been sent by train to the newly completed missile facility of Dongchang-ni, about 60 kilometers from the Chinese border.

Yonhap, quoting government sources, said the missile could be ready to launch in a week or two. South Korean defense and intelligence officials refused to comment.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, speaking at a news conference in the Philippines, said North Korea appeared to be working on a long-range missile, but it was not clear yet what they planned to do with it.

Lee, hosting a conference of Southeast Asian leaders, warned the North against any provocation.

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

North Korea on Friday warned it would take a further "self-defense" measure if the Security Council provokes it.

Britain's Foreign Secretary David Miliband said yesterday that the UK and other members of the council were drafting tough sanctions to rebuke North Korea over its "wrong, misguided, dangerous" nuclear test. Officials say financial sanctions, a toughened arms embargo and searches of ships carrying suspected nuclear cargo could be included.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov discussed the progress of the Security Council response during a phone conversation on Sunday, Russia's Foreign Ministry said yesterday.

The North is not yet believed to have mastered the technology to make a nuclear warhead small enough to mount on a missile.


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