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North Korea is adding extension to rocket launch pad, Seoul says

Seoul said the platform is being built to shoot rockets, but Pyongyang has said that it is pursuing a peaceful satellite launch.

By
Elizabeth Shim
North Korea's 2009 launch of satellite Kwangmyongsong-2 in 2009. North Korea is almost finished adding an extension to a rocket launch platform near the China border, according to South Korea. File Photo by Yonhap
North Korea's 2009 launch of satellite Kwangmyongsong-2 in 2009. North Korea is almost finished adding an extension to a rocket launch platform near the China border, according to South Korea. File Photo by Yonhap

SEOUL, July 22 (UPI) -- North Korea has built an extension to a rocket-launching platform near the China border in what Seoul said is preparation for a rocket launch ahead of a major anniversary.

Construction began in late 2013 on a preexisting 50-meter launch pad at Sohae Satellite Launching Station in Tongchang-ri, North Pyongan Province, and the work of adding 17 meters to the site is near completion, an unidentified Seoul official told Yonhap on Wednesday.

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The purpose of the extension is to launch missiles twice the size of the Unha-3, according to South Korean news outlet Daily NK.

The Unha-3 is an expandable carrier rocket that was launched in 2012 and fell into the Yellow Sea. The debris of a second stage launch fell into the Philippine Sea after an object had entered orbit.

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Another Seoul government source said intelligence indicated North Korea was producing long-distance rockets in a Pyongyang munitions factory and that South Korea had credible information Kim Jong Un had ordered the launch of a "satellite" to mark the 70th anniversary of the Workers' Party of North Korea.

Activities at Pyongyang Mirim Airport showed preparations for a large-scale military inspection by Kim Jong Un. Scud missiles, 240-mm rocket launchers, artillery, armored vehicles and transportation equipment had been assembled.

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South Korea expects any launch around the Oct. 10 anniversary would be used as a provocation against Seoul.

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"We are closely watching the construction in Tongchang-ri," South Korean Defense Minister Kim Min-seok told Yonhap.

North Korea insists the site, which has audio, video and data connections to Pyongyang's control centers is for a "peaceful satellite launch."

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