Rocket in position at launch pad in N Korea
TONGCHANG-RI, North Korea
A crowd of media gather around a Pyongyang official on a road in front of the rocket. AP photoNorth Korean space officials have moved all three stages of a long-range rocket into position for a controversial launch, vowing yesterday to push ahead with their plan in defiance of international warnings against violating a ban on missile activity.
The Associated Press was among foreign news agencies allowed a firsthand look at preparations under way at the coastal Sohae Satellite Station in northwestern North Korea. North Korea announced plans last month to launch a communications satellite using a three-stage rocket during mid-April celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the birth of North Korean founder Kim Il-sung. Engineers said yesterday that the satellite will orbit the earth and send back data for weather forecasts and crop surveys.
Experts say the Unha-3 rocket slated for liftoff between April 12 and 16 could also test long-range missile technology that might be used to strike the U.S. and other targets. All three stages of the rocket were visibly in position at the launch pad, and fueling will begin soon, Jang Myong Jin, general manager of the satellite station, told reporters during a tour of the Tongchang-ri facilities.