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Intelligence: N.Korea to Test New Missile

Posted October. 02, 2008 08:48,   


North Korea has made a sweeping renovation of its old launch pad for intercontinental missiles on its east coast and is preparing to test a new long-range missile, government sources in Seoul said yesterday.

Pyongyang is also reportedly restoring a nuclear test site in Punggye-ri, North Hamkyong Province, where the North conducted its first nuclear test two years ago.

The Seoul sources said old launch facilities for Taepodong missiles have been replaced with new ones, and the missile base in Musudan-ri is being upgraded.

North Korea test-fired a long-range missile that was assumed to be Taepodong 2 from the Musudan-ri launch pad July 5, 2006. The missile plunged into the East Sea 42 seconds after launch.

“North Korea has replaced a tower crane that propped up the launch pad and is improving the stability of missile fitting such as reinforcing missile supporters,” one source said. “We found that a facility needed for missile assembly and final inspection are being extended.”

“A new facility for automatic supply of missile propellant substances was also set up. But we assume this is to either cover up preparation for a missile launch or shorten preparation time.”

Pyongyang is also developing a solid substance-propelled ballistic missile with a range of 10,000 kilometers. To that end, it has replaced the second-stage booster of the newly deployed Taepodong 2 with a new engine, according to Seoul intelligence.

In addition, an engine combustion test for a Taepodong 2 missile was found to have been carried out in a new long-range missile base under construction in Tongchang-ri on the west coast.

Given these movements, South Korean intelligence authorities have reportedly concluded that North Korea is preparing to test launch a new long-range ballistic missile that is an improved version of the Taepodong 2.

Another Seoul source said, “Smoke was seen rising from the nuclear test site in Punggye-ri, North Hamkyong Province. So we are looking into whether Pyongyang is working to restore nuclear facilities.”

“The smoke probably came from workers burning clothing and equipment. We are analyzing whether this minor activity had something to do with the reactivation of the Yongbyon nuclear plant.”

In October 2006, North Korea reportedly dug a tunnel under a hillside in Punggye-ri and tested a nuclear device at the east side of the tunnel.

Last week, North Korea told the International Atomic Energy Agency that it will start reactivating nuclear facilities in Yongbyon within a week.

ysh1005@donga.com jin0619@donga.com