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North Korean Officials Say All Preparations Done For Launch


A North Korean soldier stands guard in front of the Unha-3 (Milky Way 3) rocket, which is due to be launched sometime between April 12 and April 16.

A North Korean soldier stands guard in front of the Unha-3 (Milky Way 3) rocket, which is due to be launched sometime between April 12 and April 16.

North Korean officials say preparations for this week's planned satellite launch are on track.

Space officials said during a rare news conference attended by foreign journalists on April 10 in Pyongyang that the launch would go ahead as planned as part of birthday commemorations for the late President Kim Il Sung.

Nuclear-armed North Korea has previously announced it planned to launch a satellite sometime between April 12 and April 16, to mark the centenary of Kim's birth.

North Korea insists the launch is a peaceful space project, but the United States and regional powers view it as a disguised test of a long-range ballistic missile in breach of UN resolutions.

South Korean media reports meanwhile say North Korea is also preparing a third nuclear test.

A senior space official told journalists in Pyongyang on April 10 that all preparations for the launch will be completed by the end of the day. The official, Ryu Kum-chol, rejected as "nonsense" assertions it is a cover for a ballistic missile test.

Warnings From Japan, South Korea

South Korea and Japan have warned they will shoot down the rocket if it threatens their territory.

A U.S.-North Korean agreement whereby North Korea agreed to a partial freeze on nuclear activities and a moratorium on missile tests in return for food aid was put on hold after Pyongyang announced plans for the rocket launch.

China's Foreign Ministry called on all parties to "exercise restraint" and avoid an escalation of tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich said the rocket launch showed "disregard" for UN Security Council resolutions but urged further political dialogue.

A similar rocket launch was condemned by the UN Security Council in 2009. North Korea walked away from six-party nuclear disarmament negotiations in protest, and conducted an atomic test weeks later that drew tightened UN sanctions.

The six party talks involve the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.

North Korea has tested two atomic devices but is not believed to have mastered the technology needed to mount a warhead on a long-range missile.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP
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