North Korea planning to test medium-range rocket, says report

June 2nd, 2009 - 7:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Seoul, June 2 (DPA) North Korea appeared to be preparing to test a medium-range missile at the same time as an intercontinental one, a South Korean media report said Tuesday.
Evidence of launch preparations has been observed at a site at Anbyeon on its east coast, the state-run Yonhap news agency quoted an unnamed member of parliament as saying.

Officials in the defence ministry in Seoul briefed the politician about the test, Yonhap said.

North Korea’s medium-range missiles are considered a particular threat to South Korea and Japan, both of which are in their ranges.

The report on the potential launch preparations came a day after South Korean media reported that an intercontinental rocket had been moved to a new launch facility in northwestern North Korea.

The reports, quoting unnamed intelligence officials, said the missile was similar to a long-range rocket that North Korea fired April 5 and was believed to be a Taepodong 2, which has a range of more than 4,000 km, meaning it could reach as far as western US territory if technically perfected.

Observers believe that North Korea’s wells-stocked arsenal includes medium range-missiles with a range of up to 3,000 km. In February, South Korea’s defence ministry reported that Pyongyang prepared new missiles which could reach Japan, the US Pacific island of Guam, as well as Australia’s northern tip and large parts of Russia and China.

Tensions have risen this year on the Korean Peninsula after North Korea carried out a nuclear test and multiple rocket launches last week, and has repeatedly threatened South Korea.

As a result, South Korea dispatched a high-speed boat equipped with guided missiles to its western sea border with North Korea, the Navy said Tuesday. The ship was meant to “frustrate North Korea’s naval provocation intentions”, it said.

In its latest warning to its neighbour, North Korea last week threatened military action against Seoul after South Korea joined a US-led initiative to intercept ships carrying illicit weapons. North Korea is a prime target of the initiative.

The Stalinist state said it felt no longer bound by the Korean War armistice and would respond militarily to any foreign attempt to inspect its ships.

Meanwhile, the US said Monday that discussions at the UN in New York on implementing additional, strong measures aimed at curbing North Korea’s nuclear ambitions were making progress.

“We are having a good and productive discussion,” US Ambassador Susan Rice said. “I think we are making progress and I am hopeful that, in due course, we will be producing a worthy and strong resolution.”

The debate within the UN Security Council over punishment for North Korea began after its May 25 nuclear test, its second after an initial one in 2006. The council condemned both tests, and after the first one barred the Stalinist country from conducting further nuclear and long-range missile tests.

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