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August 30, 2013

US Analysts: N. Korea Expanding Rocket Launch Site

by VOA News

A leading U.S. research institute says new satellite imagery shows North Korea has embarked on a major construction program at a launch site used last year to fire a rocket into orbit.

The U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies says the work at Sohae, a Yellow Sea coastal facility near the Chinese border, includes what could be a new launch pad for testing mobile ballistic missiles.

A research summary posted Friday on the institute's website, 38 North, said preliminary analysis of commercial satellite imagery shows a construction site 100 meters west of an existing launch pad on level ground.  It said a launch pad in that position would enable southward launches similar to the December 2012 firing of an Unha-3 rocket that defied United Nations' resolutions.

In July, a North Korean official in Pyongyang told VOA that another launch of an Unha vehicle would occur soon as part of what he called North Korea's "peaceful use of space." He did not elaborate.

North Korea is banned from carrying out any missile or nuclear-related tests by U.N. resolutions imposed in 2006 and 2009, after it conducted earlier and unsuccessful nuclear tests.  

The December 2012 missile launch triggered a new round of U.N. sanctions against the Pyongyang government, which responded by conducting an underground nuclear weapons test six weeks later. The world body imposed further sanctions for that action, targeting North Korea's already-anemic economy and a broader swath of its leadership with travel restrictions.