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North Korea Preparing to Fire ICBM

Posted May. 30, 2009 08:17,   


Following its long-range rocket launch April 5 and its second nuclear test Monday, North Korea is reportedly ready to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile with a range of more than 5,000 kilometers.

This implies Pyongyang’s intention to heighten military tension regardless of possible sanctions against it discussed by the U.N. Security Council.

A source familiar with the issue said yesterday, “U.S. intelligence officials have spotted activity at Sanumdong, a research-and-development complex nearby Pyongyang. North Korea seems to be ready to produce a new ICBM and move them via train.”

According to Fox News, a U.S. intelligence official said support activity, including the movement of certain vehicles and personnel, has been spotted at Sanumdong. The official said the key North Korean military facility has senior U.S. officials “kind of worried,” and that the activity is consistent with that observed prior to the past launch of the Taepodong-2 missile.

North Korea has developed and produced parts and bodies of long-range missiles at Sanumdong. It manufactured the body and other parts of the long-range rocket launched April 5 at the complex, moved them to Musudan-ri in North Hamkyong Province via train, reassembled the parts, and fired the rocket from the launch site in Musudan-ri.

After the U.N. Security Council adopted a statement condemning the North’s rocket launch, a spokesman for North Korea’s Foreign Ministry announced a second nuclear test and the test launch of a long-range ballistic missile. The Stalinist country conducted its second nuclear test Monday as pledged.

The spokesman released another statement yesterday saying Pyongyang will have no choice but to take countermeasures if the U.N. Security Council makes another provocative move.

The rising of tension on the Korean Peninsula has also led to the sudden withdrawal of Chinese vessels operating near the Northern Limit Line from the West Sea late Thursday. This followed the North’s announcement that it cannot guarantee the safety of Chinese vessels.

Seoul’s military officials have kept an eye on the withdrawal of the Chinese vessels. According to one South Korean military source, the number of Chinese vessels operating nearby the inter-Korean maritime border has fallen from the usual 280 to around 120.

North Korean vessels are still operating nearby the border, however.

Another South Korean military official said, “We’re trying to find out whether Chinese vessels began withdrawing from the West Sea following North Korea’s request or if they were ordered to withdraw by the Chinese government, which does not want a clash between the two Koreas.”

“Our military has closely watched North Korean forces off the west coast since the sudden withdrawal of Chinese vessels could be a sign of a North Korean provocation.”

sechepa@donga.com ysh1005@donga.com