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Reuters/KCNA
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North Korea appears to be gearing up for a long-range-missile test

By Richard Macauley & Zheping Huang

North Korea is gearing up to test a long-range missile, according to Kyodo, a Japanese news agency.

An unidentified Japanese official, cited in a Thursday (Jan. 28) report by Kyodo, said satellite imagery analysis in recent days indicates possible preparations for a missile launch. Both Japan and South Korea declined to comment on the report.

If that is the case, it would be the first time the country has launched a long-range missile since 2012, when it fired a missile past Japan and the Philippines, and successfully put an object into orbit.

A long-range-missile test will likely raise tensions among North Korea’s neighbors, especially after Pyongyang apparently detonated a nuclear bomb earlier this month. The preparations also come a day after John Kerry, US secretary of state, visited Beijing to discuss with China how to better rein in North Korea’s provocative actions.

During their meeting, Kerry and China’s foreign minister Wang Yi agreed to pursue a new UN resolution to condemn North Korea for its latest nuclear test. But Kerry failed to secure a pledge from China to support more sanctions against North Korea.

“Sanctions are not an end in themselves,” Wang said Wednesday before a pool of reporters. “Our goal should be to bring the nuclear issue on the Korea Peninsula back to the negotiating track.”

China, as a permanent UN Security Council member, could use its veto power to block any such measures against North Korea. But while it is Pyongyang’s last useful ally—China supports most of the country’s food and energy supplies—it has voted to sanction North Korea over nuclear tests in the past.