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DPRK rocket liftoff alert continues

HIGH winds may have forced the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to delay its rocket launch, despite the country's insistence yesterday that preparations were complete for a liftoff that many suspect is intended to test the country's long-range missile capabilities.

Regional powers deployed warships and trained satellites on the country to monitor what they suspect will be a test for a missile capable of reaching Alaska.

Preparations for sending "an experimental communications satellite" into space were complete, North Korea's state-run media said in a report yesterday morning.

It added: "The satellite will be launched soon." However, the day's stated 11am to 4pm timeframe passed without any sign of a launch.

North Korea had announced last month the launch would take place sometime between yesterday and April 8 during those hours.

Winds reported as "relatively strong" around the northeastern North Korean launch pad in Musudan-ri may have kept the North from launching the rocket yesterday, analyst Paik Hak-soon of the private Sejong Institute think tank in Seoul said.

"North Korea cannot afford a technical failure," he said. "North Korea wouldn't fire the rocket if there's even a minor concern about the weather."

Japan °?- which has deployed warships and Patriot missile interceptors - again urged North Korea to refrain from a launch that Washington, Seoul and Tokyo suspect is a guise for testing its long-range missile technology.

"Respective nations made efforts to urge North Korea to refrain from the launch," Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone said yesterday.

"But if North Korea really plans to launch, it is very regrettable."

Chief Japanese Government spokesman Takeo Kawamura added yesterday: "The launch will damage peace and stability in Asia. We strongly urge North Korea to refrain from it."

He said it would violate a UN Security Council resolution barring its ballistic missile activity.

US President Barack Obama said on Friday that a launch would be "provocative" and would prompt the United States to "take appropriate steps to let North Korea know that it can't threaten the safety and security of other countries with impunity."

North Korea has threatened retaliation against any interception of the rocket.


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