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Reports claim DPRK preparing missile test

THE Democratic People's Republic of Korea appears to be preparing to test-fire a ballistic missile that could be capable of striking the western United States, an official from the Republic of Korea and other reports claimed yesterday.

The move comes amid heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula, with the North declaring last week that it was abandoning pacts designed to prevent hostilities with the South.

The two Koreas technically remain at war because their three-year conflict ended in 1953 with a truce, not a peace treaty. Relations have been tense since President Lee Myung-bak took office a year ago with a tough new policy on Pyongyang, and rhetoric from the North Korean capital has escalated in recent days.

North Korea's clandestine missile program has been a key regional concern, along with its nuclear weapons program.

However, North Korea is not believed to have acquired the technology to develop a nuclear warhead light enough to be mounted on a missile, a South Korean intelligence official said. He did not give his name, citing departmental policy.

Analysts say reports that Pyongyang is preparing a missile test reflect its efforts to attract US President Barack Obama's attention as he formulates his North Korea policy. Obama told Lee that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would visit Seoul in mid-February.

South Korean intelligence spotted a train carrying a long, cylinder-shaped object believed to be a missile heading to a missile launch site on North Korea's west coast, the Yonhap news agency reported.

Intelligence indicates the missile is likely to be a long-range Taepodong-2 model, Yonhap said. The North could complete preparations for a missile launch within one or two months, the report said.


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