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N Korea prepare to fire missiles

world Updated: Oct 09, 2008 09:03 IST

North Korea is preparing to conduct more missile tests soon, a South Korean newspaper reported on Thursday, citing intelligence obtained by South Korean and U.S. authorities. A U.S. spy satellite detected signs that the North had deployed about 10 missiles on a small islet north of Korea's disputed western sea border and other adjacent areas, the Chosun Ilbo newspaper said, quoting an unidentified government official.

North Korea reportedly fired two short-range missiles into waters off the west coast on Tuesday, but South Korean and U.S. officials said they could not confirm the reports.

South Korean intelligence officials believe the North could fire more than five more missiles _ KN-01 land-to-ship and Styx ship-to-ship missiles, Chosun Ilbo said.

North Korea already has issued a no-sail warning banning ships from the area until next Wednesday.

The developments come amid heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula, with North Korea showing signs of reassembling its nuclear program in defiance of a six-nation accord and concerns about the health of the communist nation's authoritarian leader, Kim Jong Il.

South Korea's Defense Ministry and the National Intelligence Service and the U.S. military command in Seoul said they could not confirm the Chosun Ilbo report.

U.S. State Department officials in Washington also said they could not confirm the report, but spokesman Sean McCormack said Wednesday that the U.S. "would advise against" any short-range missile firing by the North.

North Korea routinely test-fires short-range missiles as part of its military training but this week's movements come at a time of concern about security on the peninsula. In 2006, North Korea fired seven missiles off its east coast, and then carried out an underground nuclear test several months later.

The North is believed to have enough plutonium to produce about half a dozen bombs.

After agreeing to dismantle its nuclear program in exchange for energy aid and other concessions, the North stopped disabling its main nuclear complex in August over objections to U.S. demands for verification of its nuclear programs.

A U.S. nuclear envoy visited Pyongyang last week to try resolving the dispute.