North Korea gave no hint of whether it will fire a long-range missile as widely feared, a New Zealand diplomat said Saturday after a trip to Pyongyang, as the U.S. expressed confidence it can intercept an incoming missile from the North.
New Zealand's ambassador to both Koreas, Jane Coombs, said she conveyed her country's "grave concern" to North Korean officials during a four-day trip, but was given no clue whether the Pyongyang regime would go ahead with a launch.
"They did not confirm that such a test was imminent ... nor did they deny that such a test was not imminent," Coombs said in Beijing.
In Pyongyang, she presented her credentials for her new post. North Korean officials she met include the country's No. 2 leader, Kim Yong Nam, and Vice Foreign Minister Kim Yong Il.
North Korea has made recent moves that would enable it to launch a long-range missile, U.S. and Asian officials have said. Intelligence reports say fuel tanks have been seen around a missile at the North's launch site on its northeastern coast, but officials say it's difficult to determine if the rocket is actually being fueled by looking at satellite photos.
CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports the weather is supposed to be good enough for a launch by Saturday night North Korean time, which is Saturday morning on the East Coast. But before they can launch, they still have to clear the area around the launch pad.
Martin reports that government officials currently believe the missile is carrying a satellite. If that is correct, it should not come close to U.S. territory.
In Washington, the Pentagon's missile defense chief said he has little doubt that U.S. interceptor rockets would hit and destroy a North Korean missile in flight if President George W. Bush gave the order to attack it on a path to U.S. territory.
"[From] what I have seen and what I know about the system and its capabilities, I am very confident," said Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry A. Obering III at a news conference. He refused to discuss more specifically the level of his confidence.
The North's moves has drawn widespread international concern. Its main allies China and Russia have also issued warnings.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said he was "very encouraged" at China and Russia's strong concern, which showed the international community is united against a launch.
The U.S. approached the North Koreans last weekend "and told them that we thought the idea of a launch was a very bad idea," he said, without elaborating.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan renewed his concern, saying a missile launch "in a region like the Korean Peninsula, at a time when we have lots of difficult issues ... is not a wise thing to do and North Korea must listen to what the international community is telling it."
The North has said it is willing to talk to Washington about its missile concerns, repeating its long-held desire for direct meetings with the Americans. Washington, however, has refused, and insists it will only meet the North amid six-nation talks aimed at ridding Pyongyang of its nuclear weapons program.
South Korea said the North won't get any U.S. concessions from firing a missile.
On Friday, U.S. forces wrapped up massive Pacific war games in a show of military might. The five days of exercises -- the largest in the Pacific since the Vietnam War -- brought together three aircraft carriers along with 22,000 troops and 280 warplanes off the island of Guam in the western Pacific.
The exercise "was a demonstration of the U.S. Pacific Command's ability to quickly amass a force ... and project peace, power and presence in the region," Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula told The Associated Press.
The U.S. will launch similar war games with seven other countries off Hawaii next week. The monthlong exercises, known as RIMPAC, will bring together forces from Australia, Canada, Chile, Peru, Japan, South Korea, Britain and the U.S.
North Korea blasted the biennial drills as a rehearsal for invasion, saying in a statement issued Friday night that it would "react against the reckless provocations of the aggressors with strong measures for self-defence."
In Tokyo, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso and U.S. Ambassador Thomas Schieffer signed documents about cooperation on ballistic missile defense development, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Japan's Defense Agency also said a high-resolution radar that can detect a ballistic missile has been deployed at a base in northern Japan.