Japan detects radio signals pointing to possible North Korea missile test: source

TOKYO/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Japan has detected radio signals suggesting North Korea may be preparing for another ballistic missile launch, although such signals are not unusual and satellite images did not show fresh activity, a Japanese government source said on Tuesday.

After firing missiles at a pace of about two or three a month since April, North Korean missile launches paused in September, after Pyongyang fired a rocket that passed over Japan’s northern Hokkaido island.

"This is not enough to determine (if a launch is likely soon)," the source told Reuters.

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Kim Jong-Un inspects hydrogen bomb
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Kim Jong-Un inspects hydrogen bomb
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides guidance on a nuclear weapons program in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 3, 2017. KCNA via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides guidance on a nuclear weapons program in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 3, 2017. KCNA via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides guidance on a nuclear weapons program in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 3, 2017. KCNA via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
People walk past a street monitor showing North Korea's leader Kim Jong-Un in a news report about North Korea's nuclear test, in Tokyo, Japan, September 3, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai
TOKYO, JAPAN - SEPTEMBER 03: Pedestrians walk past a monitor showing an image of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un in a news program reporting on North Korea's 6th nuclear test on September 3, 2017 in Tokyo, Japan. South Korea, Japan and the U.S. detected an artificial earthquake from Kilju, northern Hamgyong Province of North Korea. State news agency KCNA announced Pyongyang have successfully carried out a test of a hydrogen bomb, which could be loaded to the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) missile. (Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)
Residents look up at a big video screen on Mirae Scientists Street in Pyongyang showing the image of a document signed by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un to carry out a hydrogen bomb test on September 3, 2017. North Korea declared itself a thermonuclear power on September 3, after carrying out a sixth nuclear test more powerful than any it has previously detonated, presenting President Donald Trump with a potent challenge. / AFP PHOTO / KIM Won-Jin (Photo credit should read KIM WON-JIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Residents watch a big video screen on Mirae Scientists Street in Pyongyang showing newsreader Ri Chun-Hee as she announces the news that the country has successfully tested a hydrogen bomb on September 3, 2017. North Korea declared itself a thermonuclear power on September 3, after carrying out a sixth nuclear test more powerful than any it has previously detonated, presenting President Donald Trump with a potent challenge. / AFP PHOTO / KIM Won-Jin (Photo credit should read KIM WON-JIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Residents react as they watch the televised annoucement on a big video screen on Mirae Scientists Street in Pyongyang that the country has successfully tested a hydrogen bomb on September 3, 2017. North Korea declared itself a thermonuclear power on September 3, after carrying out a sixth nuclear test more powerful than any it has previously detonated, presenting President Donald Trump with a potent challenge. / AFP PHOTO / KIM Won-Jin (Photo credit should read KIM WON-JIN/AFP/Getty Images)
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Japan's Kyodo news agency reported late on Monday that the Japanese government was on alert after catching such radio signals, suggesting a launch could come in a few days. The report also said the signals might be related to winter military training by the North Korean military.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency, citing a South Korean government source, also reported that intelligence officials of the United States, South Korea and Japan had recently detected signs of a possible missile launch and have been on higher alert.

Asked about the media reports, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Robert Manning told reporters the United States continued to watch North Korea very closely.

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Satellite images of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in North Korea
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Satellite images of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in North Korea
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - APRIL 2, 2017. Figure 1. Activity continues at the North Portal. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - APRIL 2, 2017. Figure 2. Possible new dumping observed at the North Portal spoil pile. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - APRIL 2, 2017. Figure 3. Probable personnel in formation or equipment in rows at the Main Administrative Area. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 30, 2017. Figure 1. No vehicles or trailers remain around the North Portal but well-worn paths are observed. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 30, 2017. Figure 2. No new dumping of material on the North Portal spoil pile. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 30, 2017. Figure 3. Small collection of crates or trailers seen in previous imagery has been removed. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 28, 2017. Figure 3B. Formations seen in the Main Administrative Area, similar to what was seen in lead up to 2013 nuclear test. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 28, 2017. Figure 2. Material dumped at the North Portal tailings pile. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - JANUARY 4, 2013. Figure 3A. Formations seen in the Main Administrative Area in lead up to 2013 nuclear test. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 28, 2017. Figure 1. Continued activity at the North Portal. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 25, 2017. Figure 1. Probable cabling and water drainage seen at the North Portal. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - OCTOBER 19th, 2016: Figure 6: Excavation continued underground in the North Portal area suggesting more tests to come in the same tunnel complex directly under Mt. Mantap. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - JANUARY 5th, 2017: Figure 7: The North Portal spoil pile continued to expand into 2017, becoming increasingly broader. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - JANUARY 22nd, 2017: Figure 8: Late January 2017 imagery showing new spoil on top of recent snow. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - OCTOBER 19th, 2016: Figure 9. A close-up of the North Portal spoil pile as it appeared in late October 2016. The unstable spoil can sometimes lead to accidents, as in this case of toppled rail cars downslope. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 12th, 2017: Figure 10. A close-up of the North Portal spoil pile from February 2017 shows that accumulations had begun move westward with a broadening of the top and bottom west side of the pile. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 7th, 2017: Figure 1. DigitalGlobe imagery showing large shipping container or crate seen at the North Portal. Date: March 7, 2017. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 7th, 2017: Figure 2. DigitalGlobe imagery showing no changes to pattern and texture of tailings (spoil) pile at the North Portal. Date: March 7, 2017. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 7th, 2017: Figure 3. DigitalGlobe imagery showing a small vehicle present at the West Portal. Date: March 7, 2017. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 7th, 2017: Figure 4. DigitalGlobe imagery showing a truck present in the southern courtyard of the Main Administrative Area. Date: March 7, 2017. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 7th, 2017: Figure 5. DigitalGlobe imagery showing a truck present at the sites Command Center. Date: March 7, 2017. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 7th, 2017: Figure 6. DigitalGlobe imagery showing snow cleared at guard barrack and security checkpoint. Date: March 7, 2017. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - OCTOBER 24, 2016: Figure 2. No activity seen at the Sohae launch pad. Date: October 24, 2016. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - OCTOBER 24, 2016: Figure 3. Environmental shed remains adjacent to the vertical engine test stand. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - OCTOBER 29, 2016: Figure 1C. Increased activity around the North Portal throughout October. Date: October 29, 2016. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
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"This is a diplomatically led effort at this point, supported by military options," he said.

"The Republic of Korea and U.S. alliance remains strong and capable of countering any North Korean provocations or attacks."

Two U.S. government sources familiar with official assessments of North Korean capabilities and activities said that while they were not immediately familiar with recent intelligence suggesting that North Korea was preparing to launch a new missile test, the U.S. government would not be surprised if such a test were to take place in the very near future.

Other U.S. intelligence officials noted North Korea has previously sent deliberately misleading signs of preparations for missile and nuclear tests, in part to mask real preparations, and in part to test U.S. and allied intelligence on its activities.

(Reporting by Nobuhiro Kubo in TOKYO, Phil Stewart, Mark Hosenball and John Walcott in WASHINGTON, and Soyoung Kim in SEOUL; Writing by Linda Sieg; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

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