North Korea apparently preparing 'some kind of launch': US official
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un delivers a speech at the 4th national conference of war veterans in Pyongyang on July 25, 2015 (AFP Photo/)

North Korea appears to be readying for some kind of a rocket launch, a US defense official said Thursday, though it did not appear to be a ballistic missile.

The official's comments came after Japanese media reported that satellite imagery showed Pyongyang seemed to be preparing a long-range ballistic missile launch from the Dongchang-ri site in North Korea's west.

"The indications are that they are preparing for some kind of launch," the official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"Could be for a satellite or a space vehicle -- there are a lot of guesses. North Korea does this periodically, they move things back and forth... There's nothing to indicate it's ballistic-missile related."

Citing an anonymous government source, Kyodo News in Japan said the satellite imagery had been collected over the past several days.

The United States regularly monitors North Korea from space, while Japan began its own satellite monitoring of the country in 2003.

North Korea is banned under UN Security Council resolutions from carrying out any launch using ballistic missile technology, although repeated small-range missile tests have gone unpunished.

The development parallels events in December 2012, when Pyongyang put a satellite into orbit with its Unha-3 carrier.

The international community condemned the 2012 launch as a disguised ballistic missile test, resulting in a tightening of UN sanctions, despite Pyongyang's claim that it was a scientific mission.