South Korean news media say North Korea is testing radar and other monitoring equipment in preparation for what Pyongyang says will be a satellite launch. South Korea, the United States and other countries fear North Korea is actually planning to test a long-range ballistic missile.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency Friday quoted anonymous sources as reporting increased activity at North Korea's Musudan-ri launch facility. The report says the North is making final preparations to test its long-range Taepodong-2 ballistic missile, which is believed to be capable of reaching the northwestern U.S. state of Alaska.
North Korea has rejected calls to give up the launch.
Five nations engaged in disarmament talks with Pyongyang are taking steps to get the communist regime to return to negotiations over its nuclear program, which stalled in December after Pyongyang refused to sign a protocol on disarmament verification.
The U.S. is sending its newly appointed envoy for North Korea, Ambassador Stephen Bosworth, to Asia next week to help coordinate the effort.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced Thursday that Bosworth will travel to Russia, China, Japan and South Korea next week. Some news reports said he is also considering a visit to Pyongyang. Bosworth met with U.S. President Barack Obama Thursday.
The Russian official news agency Itar-Tass said Friday that Clinton has discussed the planned North Korean missile launch with her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
South Korea also is expected to name a new envoy for the North, following the appointment of its current negotiator, Kim Sook, to a senior intelligence post.
South Korean news media say possible replacements for Kim include Wi Sung-lac, a special adviser to the foreign minister, Cho Tae-yul, ambassador to Spain, and Cho Tae-yong, ambassador to Ireland.