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North Korea Steps Up Missile Prep, Photos Show

• April 2, 2012 10:05 am

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North Korea has stepped up preparation for what Washington is calling a long-range missile test, according to new satellite images showing a mobile radar trailer and rows of what appear to be empty fuel and oxidizer tanks at a North Korean launch site.

The Associated Press reports:

An analysis of images provided Monday to The Associated Press by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies shows Pyongyang "has undertaken more extensive preparations for its planned April rocket launch than previously understood." The images were taken Wednesday.

A mobile radar trailer essential for any launch stands at the end of a new dirt road running from the entrance of the Tongchang-ri site; it has a dish antenna that's probably a radar tracking system, according to the institute's analysis. Radar tracking during a launch gives engineers crucial real-time information on the performance of the rocket's engines, guidance system and other details.

"These pictures are new and important evidence that the North's preparations for its rocket launch are progressing according to schedule," said Joel Wit, visiting fellow at the institute and editor of its website on North Korea, "38 North." The images are from Digital Globe, a commercial satellite photography company.