North Korea primes new missile

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The Independent Online
JAPANESE, SOUTH Korean and United States' forces were on heightened alert yesterday after signs that North Korea was planning to fire another ballistic missile, two days after provoking outrage by carrying out a long-range test launch over northern Japan.

Government officials in Seoul told the South Korean news agency Yonhap that US spy satellites and reconnaissance aircraft had detected preparations for a second missile test, three days after the launch of a two-stage Taepo Dong I, which flew 1,300 miles over Japanese territory to land in the Pacific Ocean.

Japanese naval ships have been sent to the Sea of Japan, according to reports, where the booster stage of the first missile landed last Monday afternoon.

On the coast of South Korea, military units were said to have been placed on increased alert, and the US announced that it had sent six additional bomber aircraft to its Pacific base on the island of Guam, although officials later suggested that they had merely been sent for training purposes.

Japanese officials said that the second missile was apparently a short- range weapon and that it was unlikely to be ready for launch before tomorrow, when North Korea's Supreme Assembly meets in the capital, Pyongyang.

The likeliest time is believed to be next Wednesday, the 50th anniversary of the founding of North Korea, when the country's leader, Kim Jong II, is expected to be formally elected president of the Stalinist republic.