North Korea announces plan to launch satellite

February 24th, 2009 - 11:59 am ICT by IANS  

Seoul, Feb 24 (DPA) North Korea said Tuesday that it was preparing to launch a satellite on a domestically produced rocket after weeks of intelligence reports that said it was instead readying a test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile.
A date for the launch was not given in the statement by the Korea Space Technology Committee published by the official Korean Central News Agency.

“If this satellite is successfully launched, the space science technology of our country will take another major step for the nation to become an economic powerhouse,” the statement said.

US and South Korean intelligence services said for weeks that the impoverished, poorly developed country was preparing to launch a Taepodong-2 missile. The US military said that if technically perfected, the Taepodong-2 could reach the US state of Alaska and carry a nuclear warhead.

North Korea’s Stalinist government denied those reports and said last week that the launch was for “space development”.

However, North Korea observers said they believe Pyongyang might be trying to disguise a Taepodong-2 test as a satellite launch. In 1998, Pyongyang claimed it had launched a satellite when it sent a Taepodong-1 missile over Japanese territory.

North Korea carried out an initial test of the Taepodong-2 in 2006, which failed when the missile exploded shortly after takeoff.

In Tuesday’s statement, North Korea said intensive preparations were under way to launch a Kwangmyongsong-2 satellite on board an Unha-2 rocket from its east coast.

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