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No signs of N Korea preparing rocket launch: Seoul

North Korea shows no sign of preparing for a long-range rocket launch to mark a major political anniversary this week, a South Korean government official said.

His view was echoed by Joel Wit, an expert at the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University in the United States.

There has been speculation for months that the North might launch a long-range rocket to celebrate the 70th anniversary of its ruling Workers’ Party.

“We don’t see any signs of making preparations for an imminent launch such as the movement of a launch vehicle” to the launch pad, the unification ministry official told journalists on condition of anonymity.

“After moving components of a launch vehicle, it usually takes two to four weeks of preparations to launch.”

Remarks by the head of the North’s space agency had fuelled conjecture about a launch to mark the anniversary. Comments by the chief of the North’s national atomic commission led to additional talk of a possible fourth nuclear test.

Pyongyang insists its space programme is purely scientific and designed to put peaceful satellites in orbit. But the US, South Korea and its allies have made it clear that any rocket launch will be deemed a test of ballistic missile technology in violation of UN resolutions.

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