In the News – North Korea Moves Rocket to Launching Pad
SEOUL — North Korea has moved a long-range rocket to a launching site, apparently determined to press ahead with its plan to launch a satellite in defiance of international condemnations, the South Korean military said Sunday.
The North Koreans moved the main body of the Unha-3 rocket to the newly built launching station in Dongchang-ri, a village in northwest North Korea, as President Barack Obama and other world leaders traveled to Seoul over the weekend for a nuclear security summit meeting. Mr. Obama visited the border with North Korea on Sunday to show solidarity with South Korea and warn the North against further provocations.
“North Korea has transported the body of its long-range missile to Dongchang-ri and is making preparations inside a building for the blastoff,” said Col. Lee Bung-woo, a spokesman of the South Korean Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Spy satellites have zoomed in on Dongchang-ri since North Korea announced earlier this month that it would celebrate the 100th birthday of its revered founder, Kim Il-sung, on April 15 by putting a satellite into orbit. It said the rocket would blast off from Dongchang-ri between April 12 and 16.
The launching plan drew swift censure from Washington and its allies, who believed that North Korea was using its satellite launching to test intercontinental ballistic missile technology. Besides Iran, the North’s announcement was expected to dominate sideline discussions by Mr. Obama and other leaders gathering in Seoul for the nuclear summit meeting.
South Korean officials said the North used a train to transport parts of the rocket to Dongchang-ri. The next moves will include assembling them and fueling the rocket, they said.
North Korea, which has launched satellites twice since 1998, says its launching is part of a peaceful space program. But Washington says that the launching would violate a 2009 U.N. Security Council resolution that prohibits the country from launching any rockets using long-range ballistic missile technology.
North Korea’s planned rocket launching and Mr. Obama’s first trip to the inter-Korean border came amid fears that North Korea might attempt military adventurism to help consolidate internal unity around the new regime taking shape with Kim Jong-un at the top of its hierarchy.
Mr. Kim, grandson of Kim Il-sung, took over after the sudden death of his father, the longtime North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, in December.
Kim Jong-un, believed to be in his late 20s, has yet to inherit the top state and party posts his father held, and some analysts say that is likely to happen in April. He assumed the other major post, supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army, shortly after his father’s death.
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