Monday, June 19, 2006

North Korea said to have fueled missile for test�|�Reuters.com

North Korea said to have fueled missile for test�|�Reuters.com

The New York Times, quoting American officials, reported on its Web site that booster rockets were loaded onto a launch pad and fuel tanks fitted to a missile. This could not be confirmed, but U.S. and other officials have said satellite images show fuel tanks and key components of a missile positioned at the test site.

'FINISHING STAGE'

The South Korean daily Dong-A Ilbo quoted a Seoul government official as saying the launch could be imminent.

"We think North Korea has poured liquid fuel into the missile propellant built in the missile launching pad. It is at the finishing stage before launching" but the South Korean government did not know if fueling was completed, he said.

Experts say if the missile is not launched 48 hours after fueling, the fuel will start to break down and damage the missile.

The test preparations came as six-country talks on North Korea's nuclear programs are stalemated and international attention has shifted to concerns that Iran is building a nuclear weapon, which Tehran denies.

If they test, the North Koreans "undoubtedly would bring upon themselves tougher sanctions from Japan and a cooling (in relations) from South Korea and China so it's not cost free for them, but it suggests they are not happy where they are in terms of the six-party process," said Michael Green, a former senior Asia adviser to President George W. Bush.

Pyongyang now regrets a joint statement adopted by the six countries participating in the negotiations -- the United States, South and North Korea, Japan, Russia and China -- which requires it to give up its atomic ambitions, he told Reuters.

It is also unhappy with a U.S. crackdown on financial transactions involving cash earned by the North through illegal activities like currency counterfeiting, he said.

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