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Threat of repeat Nkorean missile test fades: report

by Staff Writers
Seoul, Aug 4, 2006
The threat of a new missile test by North Korea eased Friday after Pyongyang apparently removed a long-range missile from its launch site, a newspaper reported.

One month ago, North Korea test-fired several missiles including a longe-range Taepodong-2 reportedly capable of hitting US soil.

A second Taepodong that had been brought to the missile site prior to the July launch has now been removed from an assembly plant and taken to an undisclosed destination, the JoongAng daily said.

"Satellite photos show the second Taepodong-2 has been transported from Musudanri to an unknown place," an unidentified intelligence official was quoted as saying.

The missile could have been removed at night or under cloud cover to enable the North Koreans to make their move undetected by satellites, experts said.

South Korean media reports said officials were uncertain where the missile had been moved and intelligence sources cautioned that its removal could be only temporary.

The official quoted by JoongAng said North Korean technicians could be working on the second missile to improve it after analyzing why the first launch apparently failed.

US, Japanese, and South Korean officials say the long-range missile disintegrated soon after take-off on July 5.

The missile was one of seven fired by North Korea in defiance of international opposition.

The UN Security Council condemned the missile tests and adopted a resolution imposing weapons-related sanctions on Pyongyang.

The cash-strapped regime, which sees missiles as key to its defense and a lucrative export, rejected the resolution and vowed to push ahead with its missile program.

However experts here said the decision to remove the second long-range missile from the launch pad could be in response to those sanctions.

North Korea may have been surprised by the severity of international condemnation and by the fact that its key ally China supported the UN council's decision.

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