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North Korea pauses launch of 'dangerous' missile

Written By vibykhmer on Saturday, April 4, 2009 | 5:40 PM

The first window in North Korea's five-day satellite launch plan has passed but Pyongyang seems determined ot launch its Taepodong-2 missile despite strong warnings that the rocket itself is highly dangerous.

Thailand is well within reach of the Taepodong-2 missile if anything goes wrong.

A South Korean expert said conditions in the launch area were not ideal, with "somewhat strong" winds and cloud.

Neighbouring states suspect the launch of the rocket is a cover for a long-range missile test and have urged North Korea not to go ahead.

Experts are worried the rocket poses a danger every step of the launch, particularly after it takes off from North Korea.

"The Taepodong-2 is a danger to the region," said an Asian scientist. "With its obsolete design, there is substantial danger that the North Koreans will be unable to control it after launch and may not be able to destroy it if it goes astray."

The Taepodong-2 was designed as a ballistic missile from old Russian rocket designs. Unable to obtain access to the latest technology, North Korean rocket teams have attempted to make the outdated Soviet designs more powerful by strapping together multiple units.

But this makes the rocket more unreliable than ever, according to missile experts.

The last attempt to launch a Taepodong-2 in 2006 failed shortly after launch, as did an unsuccessful attempt to boost a satellite into orbit in 1998.

The highly volatile missile is likely to pass over or near Japanese airspace, putting that country at risk. If it goes off course during launch, however, there is no way to predict where it will go, or even whether the North Koreans will be able to destroy a rogue craft.

Regional powers deployed warships and trained satellites on the communist country to monitor what they suspect will be a long-range missile test.

Preparations for launching "an experimental communications satellite" were complete, state-run media said in a dispatch on Saturday morning, adding: "The satellite will be launched soon."

However, the day's stated 11am to 4pm timeframe passed without any report of a launch, possibly due to relatively strong winds reported in the area around the northeastern North Korean launch pad in Musudan-ri.

North Korea has announced its intention to send a satellite into space sometime between Saturday and Wednesday during daytime hours.

In a meeting on Friday, Chinese President Hu Jintao agreed with his South Korean counterpart, Lee Myung-Bak, that the "rocket launch would negatively affect peace and stability in Northeast Asia and there should be a discussion among related countries" after it takes place, Mr Lee's office said.

Billboard in Pyongyang touts the Taepodong-2 missile.

UN Security Council diplomats, anticipating a weekend emergency session, said a draft resolution was circulating that could reaffirm and tighten enforcement of the demands and sanctions of a resolution passed in October 2006 after a North Korean nuclear test. Resolution 1718 banned North Korea from ballistic missile activity.

But Washington, Seoul and Tokyo suspect North Korea's real motive is to test its long-range missile technology - a worrying development because North Korea has acknowledged it has nuclear weapons and has repeatedly broken promises to shelve its nuclear programme or halt rocket tests.

President Barack Obama said on Friday that a launch would be "provocative" and prompted the US to "take appropriate steps to let North Korea know that it can't threaten the safety and security of other countries with impunity".

"Respective nations made efforts to urge North Korea to refrain from the launch. But if North Korea really plans to launch, it is very regrettable," Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone told reporters on Saturday. (Compiled by BangkokPost.com from agency reports.)


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