By Kim Eun-jung
SEOUL, Nov. 23 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's military and government have confirmed that North Korea is preparing to launch a new long-range missile at a launch pad that has been used for previous rocket launches, Seoul officials said Friday.
Responding to a report by Japan's Asahi Shimbun that U.S. satellites detected possible preparations by the North to test a long-range ballistic missile at the Dongchang-ri base, a senior government official said, "We are judging that (North Korea) will launch a missile and are closely watching the situation."
North Korea has said it will continue to put a "working satellite" into orbit and South Korea is "judging that the North's side will go ahead as it has declared," the official said on the condition of anonymity.
U.S. satellites recently detected images of cargo believed to be missile parts similar to those shown in the April launch, and Pyongyang could be technically ready to fire off a missile as early as this month, the Japanese newspaper said.
According to the paper, Washington has informed Seoul and Tokyo about the move and the allies have stepped up their security posture since then.
"It is certain that those are missile parts," said another intelligence official, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Pyongyang unsuccessfully launched a rocket in April, which was widely seen by other nations as a disguised attempt for a long-range missile test.
The latest development came at a time Pyongyang reiterated its plan to continue launches of what it calls "working satellites" in an address to the United Nations on Nov. 15.
In a dispatch on Thursday, the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported its U.N. delegate said his country will fire off satellites for the economic development of the communist country.
It has not yet disclosed the specific time of its next launch.
Seoul officials, however, remained cautious over whether the reclusive state will attempt another missile test ahead of South Korea's presidential election next month.
"We cannot exclude the possibility of a missile launch, but there are several factors, such as the presidential vote and bilateral talks between North Korea and Japan," a government source said. "At present, we have to wait and see."
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