South Korea's foreign minister yesterday expressed deep concern over recent reports that North Korea may be preparing to test-fire a long-range missile.
"South Korea and the United States are deeply concerned," Ban Ki-moon said, urging the communist nation not to take steps that would aggravate the situation.
There is a consensus between Washington and Seoul that North Korea should not take "any steps such as firing a missile that would deteriorate the situation," he said.
South Korea has closely watched North Korea's missile activity since newspapers in Seoul and Tokyo reported on May 19 that Pyongyang might be preparing to test-fire a long-range ballistic missile.
US satellite images have shown increased movement by trailers and other vehicles near the Musudan-ri missile test site in northeastern North Korea, facing the Sea of Japan (East Sea), according to the reports.
As to confirm whether North Korea was preparing a launch, he said: "There is nothing extraordinary happening now [at the test site]."
Washington regards the North's nuclear program and its development of missiles as a global concern. The cash-strapped country has refused to stop missile exports, a major source of hard currency earnings.
North Korea shocked the world in August 1998 by firing a long-range Taepodong-1 missile with a range of up to 2,000km over Japan into the Pacific Ocean, claiming it was a satellite launch.
Pyongyang is reportedly believed to be developing a missile with a range of up to 10,000km, which would put the continental US within striking distance.
North Korea has boycotted talks on ending its nuclear program since November, when Washington imposed financial sanctions on Pyongyang for alleged counterfeiting and money laundering.