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DPRK's missile test on east coast site

THE Democratic People's Republic of Korea may be preparing to use the site of its previous ballistic missile launches on the east coast to fire its longest range missile, possibly toward Japan, news reports said yesterday.

The missile reports follow threats directed at Seoul and Washington, which analysts said are meant to intimidate Republic of Korea's President Lee Myung-bak and grab the attention of the new US President Barack Obama.

South Korea's Chosun Ilbo newspaper quoted government sources as saying that a large object suspected to be part of a long-range Taepodong-2 missile was being transported to the missile site on North Korea's east coast.

"The test site on the east coast means the missile will likely be fired over Japan and in the direction of the United States," Chosun Ilbo quoted the source as saying.

The Taepodong-2 is supposed to have a range that could eventually take it as far as Alaska, but has never successfully flown.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted a government source as saying the object could be headed for an east coast test site in the town of Musudan-ri, or a newly built site on the west coast, near China, or to an unidentified third location.

General Walter Sharp, the commander of US Forces Korea, called on North Korea to stop its provocations while a senior South Korean law maker warned a launch could come soon.

"North Korea will definitely fire a missile within a month at the earliest," Kim Hak-song, head of the parliament's defence committee, told the Maeil Business Newspaper. "If the United States shows little interest after the launch, North Korea could test fire another one around May."

North Korea fired a ballistic missile from Musudan-ri in 1998 that flew over Japan and landed in the Pacific Ocean. A Taepodong-2 launched from there in 2006 reportedly failed less than a minute into flight. It takes North Korea about a month or two to prepare a Taepodong-2 for launch, which could be Pyongyang's deadline for when it expects something positive from Seoul or Washington, analysts said.


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