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NKorea builds underground missile fuelling station: report

The North test-launched a Taepodong-1 missile in 1998 from Musudan-ri and fired a Taepodong-2 in 2006 from the same site. The Taepodong-2 failed after 40 seconds but sparked international concern and UN sanctions.
by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) Feb 26, 2009
North Korea has built an underground fuelling station at its long-range missile test site, making it harder for US spy satellites to predict the date of a launch, a news report said Thursday.

South Korea's Dong-a Ilbo newspaper, quoting intelligence sources, said Pyongyang completed the underground facility at Musudan-ri on its northeast coast sometime between late 2008 and early this year.

The communist state, defying international warnings, said Tuesday its preparations to launch a satellite are making "brisk headway" but gave no date for the exercise.

Seoul and Washington see such a launch as a pretext to test the Taepodong-2 missile, which could theoretically reach Alaska. They say a rocket launch for any purpose would violate a UN resolution passed after the last missile test.

"We presume that whatever claims North Korea makes, it will have launched a ballistic missile," said Seoul foreign ministry spokesman Moon Tae-Young, adding that there was no commercial demand for such a satellite.

China's chief nuclear envoy Wu Dawei visited Pyongyang earlier this week in an effort to persuade the North not to go ahead with the launch, Yonhap news agency said, quoting an "informed source."

"Vice Foreign Minister Wu visited Pyongyang to deliver a message of concern over North Korea's preparations for the launch of a rocket carrying what it claims to be a communications satellite," the unnamed source told Yonhap.

The news agency said the source would not comment on whether Wu's diplomatic mission would succeed.

Pyongyang late Thursday denounced South Korean concerns and reiterated its "sovereign right" to go ahead with the launch.

"As far as the issue of satellite launch is concerned, it is the DPRK's sovereign right universally recognised which does not allow mere puppets to take issue with it," a spokesman for the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said in remarks carried by the Korean Central News Agency.

"If they are not sure about whether it will be a satellite or something else, they will come to know when watching what will soar in the air in the days ahead."

Pyongyang Wednesday had vowed "no one can stop us" from going ahead and cited Iran's recent successful satellite launch, Yonhap reported earlier.

The North formerly used trucks and ground facilities visible from spy satellites to fuel its missiles.

"If liquid fuel is pumped into missile projectiles at underground facilities, the North can dodge US surveillance satellites," one source told Dong-a.

"The North is now capable of conducting the most important part of preparations for a missile launch behind the scenes."

Another intelligence source told the paper the new facilities would likely shorten the launch preparation time to one or two days. Fuelling previously took four or five days, according to Dong-a.

The National Intelligence Service had no comment on the report.

The North test-launched a Taepodong-1 missile in 1998 from Musudan-ri and fired a Taepodong-2 in 2006 from the same site. The Taepodong-2 failed after 40 seconds but sparked international concern and UN sanctions.

Iran said on February 3 it had launched its first domestically made satellite, prompting expressions of concern from world powers.

A Seoul analyst, requesting anonymity, told Yonhap that several Iranian technicians visited the North to observe the 2006 missile test.

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Syria has built missile facility at suspect site: diplomats
Vienna (AFP) Feb 25, 2009
Syria has told the UN nuclear watchdog that a suspect site bombed by Israeli planes in 2007 is now a missile facility, diplomats close to the IAEA revealed Wednesday.

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