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N. Korea Announces Prep for Satellite Launch

Posted February. 26, 2009 03:10,   


North Korea announced yesterday that it will launch a satellite into space, but most observers suspect a test of the North’s long-range ballistic missile Taepodong-2.

North Korean media said a committee for space technology is preparing to launch the Unha-2 carrying the communications satellite Kwangmyongsong-2 on a missile launch site on its northeast coast

“We will send satellites essential to economic development including those for communications, natural resource exploration and weather forecasting in a few years as the first step, and keep them in operation,” a committee source said, hinting at a series of launches.

Pyongyang’s announcement comes as it tries to divert criticism that it violated U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718 banning the North from all activities related to ballistic missile activity.

The North, however, did not mention when the launch will be. Since North Korea wants to maximize the effect of missile tests for both domestic and global purposes, experts say Pyongyang could attempt to test a missile March 8, when the North holds parliamentary elections.

Or the launch could come at the start of the South Korea-U.S. joint military exercise Key Resolve (March 8-20) or the birthday of the late North Korea leader Kim Il Sung (April 15).

South Korean intelligence said the long-range missile, which is assumed to be the Taepodong-2, has not yet been set up on the launch pad. A launch is considered imminent when a missile is set on the pad and liquid fuel is injected.

The launch facility, however, is said to have been modernized to inject fuel underground to avoid U.S. satellite surveillance and to reduce the time for fuel injection, which takes five to seven days.

“We are paying attention to the situation,” a key source at the presidential office in Seoul said. “So far, nothing has been moved to the launch pad, no fuel injection has taken place, and no special military activities have been detected.”

spear@donga.com spear@donga.com