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AP: N. Korea Completes ICBM Launch Site

Posted June. 06, 2009 08:21,   


North Korea has completed a launch site for intercontinental ballistic missiles in Tongchang-ri, North Pyongan Province, the Associated Press quoted a U.S. military expert as saying Thursday.

“The launch pad appears to be operational," said Tim Brown, a senior fellow at GlobalSecurity.org, an American think tank specializing in security issues, based on satellite images produced Wednesday by DigitalGlobe, a private American satellite company.

A launch tower 10 stories high and a launch pad are clearly seen in the images. Debris appearing to be construction materials is also seen on the launch pad.

Brown said the North appears to have intentionally left the debris to hide the completion of construction.

The North has been building the long-range missile launch base for a decade. Unlike the launch facility in Musudan-ri on the North’s east coast, the new facility can launch several missiles in a short period of time, the report said, adding this is a major step forward in Pyongyang’s long-range missile program.

Intelligence officials in Seoul and Washington recently confirmed that a long-range missile was moved from the North’s military R&D complex Sanumdong to the Tongchang-ri base.

A diplomatic source in Beijing predicted that the North will test launch an intercontinental ballistic missile from the new facility in the middle of this month and conduct its third nuclear test this year.

The third nuclear test will be the last stage to develop a nuclear warhead under one kilogram to fit on the tip of a long-range missile, experts said.

Pyongyang has accelerated its development of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles to pave the way for the power succession of Kim Jong Un, the youngest son of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

The North is apparently trying to show its people that Kim Jong Un is a capable leader by giving him credit for the development of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles armed with nuclear warhead, sources close to the situation said.

Even if the U.N. Security Council imposes tougher sanctions on North Korea, the international community cannot stop the North’s development of a long-range missile with a nuclear warhead, the sources also said, adding, if Pyongyang succeeds in development, the six-party talks will likely be scrapped.