A satellite imagery company is reporting increased activity at a North Korean launch site, suggesting a long-range missile test could take place in just weeks.
The image released Monday by DigitalGlobe shows an increased level of personnel, trucks and other equipment at North Korea's Sohae (West Sea) Satellite Launch Station. DigitalGlobe says if North Korea desires, it could carry out a long-range ballistic missile test at the site in the next three weeks.
South Korea's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Cho Tai-Young said Tuesday that Seoul is watching the situation.
"We're closely monitoring such movements in North Korea. We're also discussing [the issue] with related countries," Cho said.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said Monday that Washington is aware of the reports and discouraged North Korea from conducting any further missile tests.
"We would just take this moment to again remind the DPRK that in April of this year there was a presidential statement from the U.N. Security Council that demanded that the DPRK not proceed with any further launches using ballistic missile technology," Nuland said.
DigitalGlobe says the new launch site activity is similar to preparations taken before North Korea's failed rocket launch in April. Pyongyang said the April launch was meant to place a satellite into orbit. But the U.S. and its allies said it was a disguised ballistic missile test banned under U.N. sanctions.
Though recent test launches have failed, nuclear-armed North Korea is thought to be developing an inter-continental ballistic missile with the aim of being able to strike the United States.
The new launch site activity comes as South Korea is preparing for a December 19 presidential election. Many have thought that Pyongyang will try to influence the outcome of the election by waging a propaganda attack or conducting a missile launch.
North Korean state media have threatened a "sacred war" against the conservative government of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who has taken a tough stance against Pyongyang.