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John R. Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the Bush administration is consulting with other Security Council members on how to respond to a Taepodong launch.

In Australia, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said North Korea’s ambassador had been summoned and told any missile launch would result in “serious consequences.”

U.S. intelligence officials said there are signs that the North Koreans recently began fueling the Taepodong with highly corrosive rocket fuel. Normally, when liquid fuel is loaded into missiles the missile must be fired within five to 10 days, or it must be de-fueled and the motors cleaned, a difficult and hazardous process.

The Taepodong was first tested in August 1998, and North Korea claimed that it was a space launch vehicle that orbited a satellite. U.S. intelligence officials said the last stage of the missile was powered but did not reach orbit. A new test would likely be a more advanced version.

“Our concerns about missile activity in North Korea are long-standing and well-documented,” said Mr. Whitman, the Pentagon spokesman.

The test preparations began several weeks after the Bush administration imposed new rules on U.S. companies that prohibit American or foreign firms incorporated in the United States from flying North Korea’s flag on merchant ships.

According to the Treasury Department, Korean War-era sanctions were loosened in 2000 in order to entice North Korea into abiding by the missile flight test ban.

One reason for the concerns about a launch is that North Korea has issued threatening statements through its official press and broadcast organs that it is ready to go to war with states such as Japan and the United States that impose economic sanctions.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.