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New N. Korea Rocket Launch, Nuke Test Unlikely in Near Future, Images Suggest

A December 2012 satellite image of the Dongchang-ri rocket launch site in North Korea. Recent surveillance pictures show no signs of preparations for launches in coming weeks from Dongchang-ri or the North's Musudan-ri facility, according to a new analysis (AP Photo/GeoEye). A December 2012 satellite image of the Dongchang-ri rocket launch site in North Korea. Recent surveillance pictures show no signs of preparations for launches in coming weeks from Dongchang-ri or the North's Musudan-ri facility, according to a new analysis (AP Photo/GeoEye).

New surveillance pictures taken from orbit of North Korea's missile firing complexes and atomic detonation site do not reveal activity that typically precedes a launch or nuclear test, the Associated Press reported on Tuesday, citing new research by issue specialists.

There does not appear to be much happening at the newer Dongchang-ri missile site in the nation's west, where a long-range space rocket was successfully launched in December, concluded image analyst Nick Hansen in a post for the website 38 North. More movement has been detected at the Musudan-ri missile complex in the northeast but the purpose is not apparent, said the retired intelligence analyst.

Satellite images taken late last month also do not show any obvious signs of preparations at the Punggye-ri site for a follow-up subterranean blast to February's nuclear test, according to 38 North editor Joel Wit. 

"While inter-Korean rhetoric is heating up, Pyongyang is unlikely to do anything provocative in the near-term" with its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons testing programs, Wit said.

South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok on Tuesday said there were no indications the North is readying to carry out fresh missile launches or atomic tests in the short-term.

U.S. National Intelligence Director James Clapper on Tuesday told a Senate hearing the Stalinist state is assessed to have taken preliminary measures toward deployment of what could be a road-transportable ICBM. The aspiring nuclear power is not yet believed to have tested its KN-08 ballistic missile.

The 38 North website, operated by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, did not report strong evidence to substantiate South Korean news reports that North Korea midway through last month carried out an engine test for the KN-08 missile at Dongchang-ri.

"Construction of a new launchpad and associated facilities at [Musudan-ri] continued, but at a slow pace, perhaps because of winter weather. Nevertheless, the North has begun work on a road that could help accelerate future efforts to build the new pad," the analysis states.

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NTI Analysis

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North Korea

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