News / Asia

North Korea Halts Work on Launch Pad

Satellite image provided by DigitalGlobe shows the Tongch'ang-ni Launch Facility on North Korea's northwest coast, April 6, 2012.
Satellite image provided by DigitalGlobe shows the Tongch'ang-ni Launch Facility on North Korea's northwest coast, April 6, 2012.
VOA News
A U.S.-based research institute says new satellite imagery suggests North Korea has halted construction on a launch pad capable of testing intercontinental missiles.

The website 38 North says the delay, possibly due to recent heavy rains, could push back the project's completion by up to two years.

The new launch pad, located at the Tonghae Satellite Launching Ground, had been scheduled for completion around 2015.

But the group says the photos, taken August 29, also suggest Pyongyang is working on an existing launch pad at the same facility that has been used for previous missile tests.

Although the report says no launch appears to be imminent, it says North Korea can still launch longer-range rockets at its Sohae facility, from where it conducted its failed missile launch in April.

North Korea said the April launch was aimed at placing a satellite into orbit. But the U.S. and others condemned the move, saying it was a pretext for long-range missile testing prohibited under U.N. sanctions.

Pyongyang has tested two nuclear weapons and says it has turned some of its stockpile of plutonium into bomb material.  There are concerns that it aims to create a nuclear bomb that can be carried on a missile, though experts say they have not mastered the necessary technology.

38 North, the website of the U.S.-Korea Institute of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, says the new launch pad at Tonghae is intended to conduct tests on "larger liquid-fueled rockets, possibly with intercontinental ranges."

It said the commercial satellite photos of the facility, taken by DigitalGlobe, also show Pyongyang has stopped construction on fuel and oxidizer buildings designed to support future tests near the new pad.

The report said the exact cause of the delay is not clear, but that heavy rains may have damaged the dirt trail leading to the secluded construction site. It also said heavy construction equipment at the site may have been relocated to help repair flood-damaged areas.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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