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(LEAD) S. Korea's top nuclear envoy heads to China amid N. Korea's possible missile test
SEOUL, Nov. 29 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's top nuclear envoy left for China Thursday to discuss the recent situation in North Korea, with satellite images suggesting that the North could launch a long-range missile in coming weeks.

   Lim Sung-nam, Seoul's chief negotiator to six-party talks aimed at ending the North's nuclear ambitions, will meet with his Chinese counterpart Wu Dawei and other Beijing officials during his two-day trip. It is also Lim's first visit to Beijing since Xi Jinping was officially confirmed as the new leader of China earlier this month.

   Speaking before departing for Beijing, Lim told Yonhap News Agency by telephone he "will exchange views on the recent situation on the Korean Peninsula with Chinese officials."

   Lim and Chinese officials will also "exchange views on the direction of the North Korea policy under the new Chinese leadership and discuss future cooperation over issues on the Korean Peninsula," the envoy said.

  
South Korea's top nuclear envoy Lim Sung-nam arrives at a Beijing airport on Nov. 29, 2012. (Yonhap)


This week, a new satellite image by DigitalGlobe Inc., a provider of commercial satellite images, showed increased activities at North Korea's launch site on its west coast.

   Citing significant movement at the North's Sohae Satellite Launch Station, DigitalGlobe said, "Given the observed level of activity noted, of a new tent, trucks, people and numerous portable fuel/oxidizer tanks, should North Korea desire -- it could possibly conduct its fifth satellite launch event during the next three weeks."

   South Korean officials, who have warned North Korea against trying to influence the Dec. 19 presidential election in Seoul, have confirmed the North's preparations to launch a long-range rocket, but declined to confirm whether the launch is imminent.

   Also on Thursday, Seoul's foreign ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young said, "With regard to the analysis by DigitalGlobe, we are keeping a close eye on relevant developments in North Korea, while consulting with states concerned."

   "As for specific details, please understand that I cannot confirm them as they are a matter of intelligence," Cho said.

   Aside from South Korea's upcoming presidential election, the North's preparations to launch a long-range missile also coincided with the South's attempt to launch a rocket into space on Thursday.

   North Korea's much-hyped rocket launch ended in failure in April. Pyongyang claims the launch was aimed at putting a satellite into orbit, but Seoul, Washington and other nations viewed the launch as a disguised ballistic missile test.

   kdh@yna.co.kr
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