Pyongyang preparing for second missile test, says report

Satellite imagery of Musudan Ri, North Korea, taken on March 26. Image courtesy DigitalGlobe

SEOUL (BNS): North Korea after carrying out the test launch of a long-range rocket missile in early April, may also conduct a short or medium range missile, Tokyo’s Sankei newspaper reported in its columns on Sunday.

Another newspaper Shimbun reported that a group of Iranian missile experts is in North Korea to help Pyongyang prepare for a rocket launch.

North Korea has maintained that it was launching a communications satellite into orbit between April 4 and 8 as part of its space development programme. But, the US, South Korea and Japan suspect that North Korea was using the launch to test long-range missile technology and have issued an ultimatum threatening that North Korea could face international sanctions under a 2006 UN Security Council resolution prohibiting ballistic activity by it.

Satellite imagery, obtained by the Institute for Science and International Security from DigitalGlobe, shows the rocket at the Musudan-ri launch site in northeastern North Korea, casting a shadow on the ground below. Jane's Defence Weekly said the image suggests that North Korea is on or even ahead of the schedule for an early April launch from its Musudan-ni site.

The Japanese newspaper said that the North might conduct another missile test if the UN Security Council approves sanctions against it, or if it fails to get concessions from Washington.

There was no immediate reaction from US, Japan or South Korea on the Japanese newspaper report. Reports said that Japan’s Defence Ministry declined to comment, while South Korea’s Defence Ministry and National Intelligence Service said that they couldn’t confirm the report.

However, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said in an interview on a TV channel that Pyongyang was likely to launch a missile and there was nothing that the US could do to stop it.

“I would say we are not prepared to do anything about it,” Gates was quoted as saying.
Last week, North Korea warned that it would take ‘strong measures’ if the Security Council condemns the launch, and levies any sanctions against it. Under a deal worked out in 2007 with the US, South Korea, China, Russia and Japan, Pyongyang agreed to dismantle its nuclear programme in exchange for aid. However, the process has been stalled on how it could be verified that the North was accounting of its past nuclear activities.

Reports stated quoting South Korea’s foreign minister Yu Myung-hwan that the UN ambassadors of South Korea, the US, China, Russia and Japan have begun talks on what to do if North Korea goes ahead with the rocket launch.

In an interview published in South Korean newspaper JoongAng Ilbo, Yu Myung-hwan said that they couldn’t let it pass as if nothing happened if North Korea violates the Security Council resolution. “An appropriate UN measure based on the five countries’ common stance will come out,” he was quoted as saying.

The Japanese paper reported that a group of 15 personnel from the Iranian satellite and missile development company Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group are in North Korea for assistance. North Korea sent missile experts to Iran when it launched a satellite in February, the report stated. It is believed that North Korea sold missiles to Iran, and Tehran’s Safir-Omid space launch vehicle owes much to Taepodong missile.

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