North Korea has transported the main body of a long-range rocket to a launch site in the northwestern part of the reclusive state, a South Korean official said Sunday.
“South Korean and US military authorities understand that North Korea has moved the main body of a long-range missile to Dongchang-ri in preparation for launch,” said a South Korean military official according to Yonhap News.
A train moved the main body to the launch facility in Dongchang-ri, Cholsan County, North Pyongan Province, the official said.
The move indicates that Pyongyang is taking further steps to put a satellite into orbit using a long-range missile between April 12 and 16, another South Korean government official said.
“It is an expected move, as the North already declared that it could launch a satellite as early as April 12,” the official told The Korea Herald on condition of anonymity.
“The North showed a similar pattern of preparation when they launched a missile in April 2009,” he said.
News reports said the Japanese government decided on Friday to deploy three Aegis warships to intercept the North Korean rocket.
“I have ordered officials to prepare to deploy the PAC-3 and Aegis warships,” Japan’s Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka told reporters.
Pyongyang’s planned rocket launch is to celebrate the 100th year since the birth of the North’s founder Kim Il-sung on April 15.
The international community including the US, China, Russia, Japan and EU have called on the North to withdraw its plan, saying it will breach the UN Security Council Resolutions banning any launch of ballistic missiles.
Previously, North Korea launched rockets from the Musudan-ri facility on the eastern side of the peninsula.
The Dongchang-ri facility has a larger launch tower than that in Musudan-ri, allowing larger rockets including intercontinental ballistic missiles to be fired.
Located 70 kilometers away from the Yongbyon nuclear complex, the Dongchang-ri facility is more accessible to nuclear materials. (nvn)