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Photos show North Korea readying for rocket launch

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North Korea likely will bring the rocket it plans to test-fire this month to the launch pad within days, according to an analysis of new satellite pictures of the launch site.

"The level of activity at the launch pad and tower indicates that the rocket should be in place within days," said Allison Puccioni, an imagery analyst with IHS Jane's Defense Weekly.

She was commenting on new satellite photos of the Sohae Launch Station, in the northwestern region of the country, from where the totalitarian regime has said it will launch a satellite between April 12-16 to commemorate the centenary of the state's founder, Kim Il-sung.

The pictures of Sohae, taken March 31, show more vehicles on the launch pad and fuel containers next to it, according to Ms. Puccioni.

Construction of Sohae was completed last year, and this month's test of the Unha-3 rocket, a modified version of North Korea's Taepodong-2 ballistic missile will be the first launch at the base.

"The gantry crane above the launch tower is now situated directly over the mobile launch platform, the position necessary to erect the rocket," Ms. Puccioni wrote in an analysis of the Geo-Eye satellite photos released by Jane's Thursday.

The United States and other Western powers have said they suspect the launch is a cover for a ballistic missile test, and have called on leader Kim Jong-un, grandson of Kim Il-Sung, to halt the launch.

Officials believe the launch may be an attempt to bolster the reputation of the inexperienced new leader, who took power this year after the December death of his father, Kim Jong-il.

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