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In its clearest signal yet that a missile launch is imminent, North Korea's space agency said Tuesday it is preparing to put "an experimental communications satellite" into orbit. The announcement did not indicate when, however. Foreign intelligence agencies have speculated for weeks that the North is about to test-fire its longest-range ballistic missile, the Taepodong-2, which reportedly is capable of reaching the US West Coast. Rival South Korea's defense minister called the planned launch a "provocation" and said his agency would proceed "on the assumption it's a missile."

Taliban leaders in northwestern Pakistan's Swat Valley extended their truce with government forces "for an indefinite period" Tuesday and said they'd release "all security personnel in our custody" as a goodwill gesture. The announcement came hours before the current cease-fire was due to expire. The extension allows peace negotiators for the two sides more time to reach a deal, but skeptics doubt that the Taliban will agree to loosen their grip on the valley or be satisfied with the mild version of Islamic law the government has said it will accept there.

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