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Asia-pacific

Pyongyang reportedly preparing another missile launch

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-06-02

North Korea appears to be pushing ahead with preparations to launch another long-range missile despite global condemnation of its May 25 nuclear test, South Korean and US officials say. South Korea remains on heightened alert.

AFP - An unrepentant North Korea appears to be pushing ahead with preparations to launch another long-range missile, defying global condemnation of its nuclear test, South Korean and US officials said Monday.

The secretive communist state was also said to be stepping up military drills near the border with the South, which is on heightened alert for a possible repeat of the deadly naval clashes seen in 1999 and 2002.

Pyongyang has warned it would take "self-defence measures" in response to any tougher international sanctions over its May 25 nuclear test and South Korea said Monday that a long-range missile launch appeared possible.

"We have detected signs that North Korea is preparing to fire an ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile)," a defence ministry spokesman told AFP.

The North has moved a long-range missile to a new base in Dongchang-ri along its northwestern coast and a launch could take place in one or two weeks, South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted an unnamed intelligence official as saying.

The North has another site on the east coast at Musudan-ri, from where it fired a Taepodong-2 rocket over Japan in April. It said the launch was to put a satellite in orbit but other nations saw it as a disguised missile test.

Two US defence officials also confirmed to AFP in Washington that Pyongyang appeared to have moved a long-range missile to Dongchang-ri.

But any launch would likely be weeks away given North Korea's technical capacity, said one of the officials, who asked to remain anonymous.

"It'll take a while for North Korea to put anything together," he said.

Tensions have been running high for the past week after Kim Jong-Il's regime tested a nuclear bomb for the second time and then launched a series of short-range missiles and threatened possible attacks on South Korea.

"Along with new facilities, Dongchang-ri has a geographical advantage. It's close to Pyongyang as well as (the nuclear facilities at) Yongbyon," said Professor Kim Yong-Hyun, a North Korea expert at Seoul's Dongguk University.

"It's also hard for US spy planes to get easy access. I'm not sure whether North Korea will fire a missile towards the Pacific or southwards," he said.

South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak warned Monday that Seoul would "never tolerate" the North taking a "path of military threats and provocation."

"We sincerely hope for peace, but will sternly deal with any threats," he said in a regular radio address.

Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Mitoji Yabunaka, speaking after a meeting with visiting US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, said Tokyo "would never accept" a North Korea with nuclear weapons.

Steinberg for his part said that the North, after its nuclear and missile tests, needs to understand that "this is a very bad path to go down."

But Pyongyang remained defiant.

The North "will further strengthen its nuclear deterrent in order to safeguard its ideology and system," the official KCNA news agency said Monday.

South Korean and US forces on the peninsula are on heightened alert after the North warned of a possible attack in response to Seoul's decision to join a US-led initiative to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

"North Korean troops have been conducting more drills, especially along the west coast," another South Korean defence ministry spokesman told AFP.

The North has used high-speed boats for landing exercises and banned ships from some areas of the Yellow Sea until the end of July, Yonhap reported.

"We are not ruling out the possibility that North Korea may try to raid one of the islands," it quoted an unidentified defence source as saying.

But many experts see the exercises as calculated brinkmanship by an isolated regime that is unlikely to risk its own survival.

"Provocative activities are highly possible in the Yellow Sea," said Professor Kim.

But "North Korea knows that an attack on a South Korean island would escalate into full-scale war. I don't think North Korea will commit suicide," he said.

The growing tensions cast a shadow over a major summit bringing together the leaders of South Korea and Southeast Asian nations on the southern resort island of Jeju.

Seoul has imposed tight security for the June 1-2 meetings with 5,000 police deployed in Jeju, a surface-to-air missile unit set up close to the convention centre and navy ships are patrolling the coast.
AFP - An unrepentant North Korea appears to be pushing ahead with preparations to launch another long-range missile, defying global condemnation of its nuclear test, South Korean and US officials said Monday.

The secretive communist state was also said to be stepping up military drills near the border with the South, which is on heightened alert for a possible repeat of the deadly naval clashes seen in 1999 and 2002.

Pyongyang has warned it would take "self-defence measures" in response to any tougher international sanctions over its May 25 nuclear test and South Korea said Monday that a long-range missile launch appeared possible.

"We have detected signs that North Korea is preparing to fire an ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile)," a defence ministry spokesman told AFP.

The North has moved a long-range missile to a new base in Dongchang-ri along its northwestern coast and a launch could take place in one or two weeks, South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted an unnamed intelligence official as saying.

The North has another site on the east coast at Musudan-ri, from where it fired a Taepodong-2 rocket over Japan in April. It said the launch was to put a satellite in orbit but other nations saw it as a disguised missile test.

Two US defence officials also confirmed to AFP in Washington that Pyongyang appeared to have moved a long-range missile to Dongchang-ri.

But any launch would likely be weeks away given North Korea's technical capacity, said one of the officials, who asked to remain anonymous.

"It'll take a while for North Korea to put anything together," he said.

Tensions have been running high for the past week after Kim Jong-Il's regime tested a nuclear bomb for the second time and then launched a series of short-range missiles and threatened possible attacks on South Korea.

"Along with new facilities, Dongchang-ri has a geographical advantage. It's close to Pyongyang as well as (the nuclear facilities at) Yongbyon," said Professor Kim Yong-Hyun, a North Korea expert at Seoul's Dongguk University.

"It's also hard for US spy planes to get easy access. I'm not sure whether North Korea will fire a missile towards the Pacific or southwards," he said.

South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak warned Monday that Seoul would "never tolerate" the North taking a "path of military threats and provocation."

"We sincerely hope for peace, but will sternly deal with any threats," he said in a regular radio address.

Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Mitoji Yabunaka, speaking after a meeting with visiting US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, said Tokyo "would never accept" a North Korea with nuclear weapons.

Steinberg for his part said that the North, after its nuclear and missile tests, needs to understand that "this is a very bad path to go down."

But Pyongyang remained defiant.

The North "will further strengthen its nuclear deterrent in order to safeguard its ideology and system," the official KCNA news agency said Monday.

South Korean and US forces on the peninsula are on heightened alert after the North warned of a possible attack in response to Seoul's decision to join a US-led initiative to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

"North Korean troops have been conducting more drills, especially along the west coast," another South Korean defence ministry spokesman told AFP.

The North has used high-speed boats for landing exercises and banned ships from some areas of the Yellow Sea until the end of July, Yonhap reported.

"We are not ruling out the possibility that North Korea may try to raid one of the islands," it quoted an unidentified defence source as saying.

But many experts see the exercises as calculated brinkmanship by an isolated regime that is unlikely to risk its own survival.

"Provocative activities are highly possible in the Yellow Sea," said Professor Kim.

But "North Korea knows that an attack on a South Korean island would escalate into full-scale war. I don't think North Korea will commit suicide," he said.

The growing tensions cast a shadow over a major summit bringing together the leaders of South Korea and Southeast Asian nations on the southern resort island of Jeju.

Seoul has imposed tight security for the June 1-2 meetings with 5,000 police deployed in Jeju, a surface-to-air missile unit set up close to the convention centre and navy ships are patrolling the coast.
 

Date created : 2009-06-01

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