North Korea may still hold test missile launch - U.S. official

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon still believes North Korea may be poised for a missile test launch in the coming days even after celebration of its founder's birthday took place Monday without incident, a senior U.S. defence official told Reuters.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the U.S. military thinking had been that a test-launch could come before the anniversary or after but, "We've all thought this month was the zone."

When asked whether he had expected a launch by now, he said: "I was not surprised."

The North has threatened nuclear attacks on the United States, South Korea and Japan after new U.N. sanctions were imposed in response to its latest nuclear arms test in February.

Many Pyongyang watchers had anticipated a missile test tied to the 101st anniversary of the day the North's founder Kim Il-Sung was born, perhaps before or on the anniversary.

Most officials have publicly refused to speculate on timing, noting the unpredictable nature of the regime.

South Korea said it remained on guard against any missile launch and it regretted the North's rejection of an offer of talks made last week by President Park Geun-hye. It said the offer would remain on the table.

Missile launches and nuclear tests by North Korea are both banned under U.N. Security Council resolutions, that were expanded after its third nuclear test, in February.

The aim of the North's aggressive acts, analysts say, is to bolster the leadership of Kim Jong-un, the 30-year-old grandson of the nation's founder, or to force the United States to hold talks with the North.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)