North Korea steps up preparations for missile launch: Seoul

February 27th, 2009 - 3:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Seoul, Feb 27 (DPA) North Korea has begun to test radar and other equipment in preparation for launching what it claims to be a satellite, South Korean media reports said Friday.
Increased activity was reported from the Musudan-ri missile launch site in the north-east of the communist state as North Korea moves closer to what South Korea claims is an attempt to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile.

While increased activity hinted at an upcoming launch, no missile has been mounted yet, the South Korean news agency Yonhap quoted a defence ministry official as saying.

North Korea appears to have moved one of its Taepodong-2 long-range missiles, which is believed to be capable of striking Alaska, to the launch site and began assembling radar and other monitoring equipment, an analysis of satellite images showed, Yonhap said.

After weeks of speculation over a possible missile launch, Pyongyang Tuesday said it was preparing to shoot a communications satellite into orbit, but it remained unclear when the launch was to take place.

Analysts said they believe North Korea intends to mask plans for a missile test as a satellite launch to avoid international sanctions. Pyongyang’s missile development, together with its nuclear weapons programme, is widely regarded as a threat to stability in the region.

Government officials in Seoul said this week that they expected the launch before March 8 elections to select members of North Korea’s parliament, where hand-picked candidates are selected to rubber-stamp government decisions.

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