x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

N Korea fuels missile 'underground'

An underground fuelling station, which makes it harder for spy satellites to predict a missile launch date, has allegedly been built at Musudan-ri.

North Korea has built an underground fuelling station at its long-range missile test site, making it harder for US spy satellites to predict the date of a launch, a news report said today. South Korea's Dong-a Ilbo newspaper, quoting intelligence sources, said Pyongyang completed the underground facility at Musudan-ri on its north-east coast sometime between late 2008 and early this year. The communist state, defying international warnings, said on Tuesday its preparations to launch a satellite are making "brisk headway" but gave no date for the exercise.

Seoul and Washington see such a launch as a pretext to test the Taepodong-2 missile, which could theoretically reach Alaska. They say a rocket launch for any purpose would violate a UN resolution. But Pyongyang late yesterday vowed "no one can stop us" from going ahead and cited Iran's recent successful satellite launch, Seoul's Yonhap news agency reported. The North formerly used lorries and ground facilities visible from spy satellites to fuel its missiles.

"If liquid fuel is pumped into missile projectiles at underground facilities, the North can dodge US surveillance satellites," one source told Dong-a. "The North is now capable of conducting the most important part of preparations for a missile launch behind the scenes." Another intelligence source told the paper the new facilities would likely shorten the preparation time to one or two days. Fuelling previously took four or five days, according to Dong-a.

South Korea's National Intelligence Service had no comment on the report. The North test-launched a Taepodong-1 missile in 1998 from Musudan-ri and fired a Taepodong-2 in 2006 from the same site. The Taepodong-2 failed after 40 seconds but sparked international concern and UN sanctions. "The peaceful advance into space and its use is a just policy of our republic that matches the current times, and no one can stop us from this," the North's state radio Korean Central Broadcasting Station said late yesterday.

Its statement was carried by Yonhap, which monitors the North's broadcast media. *AFP