04/03/2009, 00.00
NORTH KOREA
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North Koreans to launch rocket probably tomorrow

Send off is almost ready. Japan, United States and South Korea call for UN intervention, but Pyongyang’s ally, China, is likely to veto any fresh sanctions. Rocket launch allows North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il to shore up his power in a prostrate country.

Pyongyang (AsiaNews/Agencies) – North Korea is almost ready to launch a rocket from its Musudan-ri missile base in the southern part of North Hamgyong province. US sources said that it could come as early as tomorrow. “I think it's almost certain North Korea will fire the missile,” South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said in London for the G-20 summit.

North Korea has said it will send a satellite into space between 4 and 8 April and that it has the right to do so as a part of a peaceful space programme.

South Korea, Japan and the United States view the launch as a disguised test of the long-range Taepodong-2 missile, which is designed to carry a warhead to US territory.

In its first test in July 2006the rocket blew apart about 40 seconds after launch.

For this reason Japan's UN ambassador, Yukio Takasu, yesterday requested an emergency meeting of the Security Council to discuss possible sanctions against Pyongyang saying that the launch violates UN resolutions that ban further ballistic missile tests.

But China, North Korea’s main ally, is almost certain to veto new sanctions.

For their part the United States, Japan and South Korea have threatened to intercept the missile if it flies over their territory.

In response North Korea has said that it would consider any intercept an act of war.

Analysts said the launch helps North Korean leader Kim Jong-il shore up support after a suspected stroke in August raised questions about his grip on power. It will also help Pyongyang to boost one of its few exports, weapons.

Still North Korea’s rocket programme has cost hundreds of millions of dollars, reaping mostly criticism from the international community, in a country reeling under the effects of widespread food shortages and malnutrition.

 

 

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