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North Korea Missle Final Preparations sited and confirmed by South Korea and Japan

Saturday, April 4, 2009





Sat Apr 4, 2009 10:00pm EDT




By Jack Kim and Kim Yeon-hee


SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea has removed the cover from the top of a long-range rocket and started a radar needed to track its flight, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said on Sunday, indicating a launch is imminent.
"My understanding is the cover of the rocket has been removed and radar tracking has been spotted as operating continuously," Yonhap quoted an unnamed South Korean government source familiar with the preparations as saying.
"Given these conditions, a launch is likely to occur as early as this morning."
Weather conditions on Saturday that may have delayed the launch of the rocket, which is widely seen as a disguised long-range missile test, had also improved, reports said.
The United States, Japan and South Korea say the launch of the Taepodong-2 rocket would violate U.N. resolutions. The missile is designed to carry a warhead as far as Alaska.
North Korea has said the launch would take place between April 4-8 from the hours of 10:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. EDT.
With a range of 6,700 km (4,200 miles), the Taepodong-2 is supposed to fly over Japan, dropping boosters to its west and east on a path that runs southwest of Hawaii.
In its only previous test flight, in July 2006, the missile blew apart about 40 seconds after launch.
In Tokyo, the Kyodo news agency quoted Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone as saying:
"We continue to be on alert and have made every preparation including on the assumption that there will be a launch."
The North said on Saturday it had completed preparations to put a satellite into space, adding the launch would occur soon.
South Korean officials said high winds and cloudy skies may have caused the North to put off the launch on Saturday, the first day of the five-day window the secretive state announced to the outside world.
The North's KCNA news agency predicted clearer skies and lower winds on Sunday around its Musudan-ri missile base, according to reports monitored in Seoul.
Experts have said clear visibility would help North Korea, with limited radar capabilities, monitor the flight.
The base is located in the northeast of the country, about 850 km (530 miles) from the Japanese coast.

The United States, Japan and South Korea will view the launch as a violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution passed in 2006 after Pyongyang carried out the nuclear test and other missile tests.
That resolution, number 1718, demands North Korea "suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile program."
U.N. Security Council diplomats have told Reuters on condition of anonymity that no country was considering imposing new sanctions but the starting point could be discussing a resolution for the stricter enforcement of earlier sanctions.
Both Russia and China, the latter the nearest the reclusive North has to a major ally, have made clear they would block new sanctions by the Council, where they have veto power.
(Additional reporting by Jon Herskovitz and Kim Yeon-hee in Seoul, Rodney Joyce in Tokyo, Writing by Dean Yates, Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

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