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New Images Show North Korea Readying for Rocket Launch

This March 28, 2012 satellite file image provided by DigitalGlobe shows North Korea’s Tongchang-ri launch facility on the nation’s western coast.
This March 28, 2012 satellite file image provided by DigitalGlobe shows North Korea’s Tongchang-ri launch facility on the nation’s western coast.

New satellite images of a North Korean rocket site show evidence of increased preparation for a space launch that Washington sees as cover for a long-range missile test.

The U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies said Sunday that satellite photos taken last Wednesday show a mobile radar trailer, not previously present at the new Tongchang-ri site, and rows of what appear to be empty fuel and oxidizer tanks.

The Institute said the photos also show what appears to be activity near the launcher assembly building, where news reports indicate the stages of the Unha-3 rocket are located.

Pyongyang says the launch will put a functional satellite into orbit as part of the celebration of the 100th birthday of the late leader Kim Il Sung, the founder of the communist state and Kim Jong Un's grandfather.

The United States, Russia, South Korea and Japan all have condemned the planned launch.  Even Pyongyang's long-time ally, China, has expressed rare disapproval, while U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was "deeply concerned."   

The Aspen Institute "think tank" in Berlin said Sunday that North Korean and American delegations had held informal talks in Germany.  Charles King Mallory, executive director of the Institute, confirmed the meeting but did not comment in detail on the contents of the so-called "track two" talks or who participated in them.

"Yes there was a meeting," admitted Mallory, "it discussed the four principle areas of the September 15th 2009 joint statement, those would be: peace treaty, they would be economic cooperation and development, denuclearization and confidence building measures, that's what happened."

Watch related video of satellite footage

The North's official Korean Central News Agency said Monday that Pyongyang will hold a special Workers' Party conference on April 11, just days before the satellite launch.  Analysts say the delegates are likely to appoint the country's new leader, Kim Jong Un, to the post of party general-secretary, previously held by his father Kim Jong Il, who died in December.

The North's announcement of the launch plan came just over two weeks after Pyongyang reached a deal with the United States to suspend operations at its Yongbyon uranium enrichment plant and impose a moratorium on long-range missile tests and nuclear tests in return for 240,000 tons of food aid.

Washington said last week it is suspending plans to start food deliveries as it can no longer trust the North to stick to arrangements on monitoring distribution.

Pyongyang criticized the U.S. move Saturday as an "over-reaction" that would kill the February 29 agreement.

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by: 李相龙
April 03, 2012 7:07 AM
China also expressed very unhappy.North Korea is just to play the United States.But from another perspective,Why the great powers(especially China and the United States of America ) do not allow small countries launching their own satellites

by: Z
April 02, 2012 4:34 PM
If Russia thinks for a second that the US or any other modern country is going to sit and put up with this B.S. of tit for tat crap tolerence anymore, Almost for the last 60 years now, It now is going to change . People of this world are really tired of the wars being fought indirectly,And you know who you are.Either your part of the problem or you are part of the solution, You Must Decide Now

by: Hoang
April 02, 2012 12:49 PM
I think North Korea is afraid of US & South Korea invade it. If not why US in South Korea for?

by: William
April 02, 2012 8:52 AM
NK is nothing but a bunch of punk thugs and a puppet for china to use as a thorn in the side of the U.S., Don't send one scrap to them let china continue to be their main benefactor and don't consider negotiations with that bunch of despots and i hope the next time they do something stupid that SK retaliates with overwelming force.

by: Steve
April 02, 2012 7:54 AM
As you can tell from the pictures of the new so called leader he has not missed a meal just like his father and grandfather....Make north korea out of a wal-mart parking lot and get it over....It will never change...i was stationed the for 5 years in the late 70's and still the same....A dictator is a dictaor and will never change thinks about him self and nothing about the people in his country....

by: Clay
April 02, 2012 6:50 AM
I guess those could all be propellant tanks, but man, that’s a lot of fuel for one relatively small rocket. Not to say I doubt preps are underway. That’s a fairly robust installation, I’m sure it cost them plenty and they fully intend to use it.

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