North Korea Seen Moving All Rocket Stages to Launch Platform

North Korea is moving the last of three rocket stages to a launch platform, an informed government insider told the Yonhap News Agency on Tuesday in the most recent sign the nation will proceed with its stated plan to fire a rocket that many view as cover for another long-range ballistic missile test.

"North Korea completed installing the second-stage rocket into position and appears to be working to place the third stage in position," the unidentified source said.

The official said one or two more days would be needed for North Korean specialists to finish standing up the three stages of the space rocket, which is expected to be another modified version of the North's developmental Taepodong 2 strategic missile.

Pyongyang on Saturday said it would fire a long-range rocket equipped with a "working satellite" into space sometime from Dec. 10-22. It comes eight months after the North's last attempt, in which the rocket broke apart minutes after takeoff.

The Stalinist state filed the rocket flight course coordinates with the International Maritime Organization and has alerted China, Japan, the Philippines and other nearby states of the anticipated travel path, Yonhap separately reported.

The United States and regional allies oppose North Korean rocket launches, seeing in them a program to test ICBM technology in violation of U.N. Security Council prohibitions. Washington is collaborating with China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea in seeking to compel Pyongyang into abandoning its launch plans, the White House's point man for arms control and nonproliferation, Gary Samore, told Yonhap.

"We've made it very clear that we consider this to be a very unfortunate provocative event, which is not going [to] help North Korea," Samore said on Monday.

"We will be working very closely with our allies, including the Republic of Korea and Japan, as well as other partners like China and Russia to try to discourage North Korea from taking this step," Samore said. "And if they do it we will consider appropriate responses." He declined to specify what kinds of punitive measures the United States would undertake if North Korea conducts its second long-range rocket launch this year.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in released comments he is greatly worried about North Korea's rocket plans, Agence France-Presse reported.

Ban "strongly urges the D.P.R.K. to reconsider its decision and to suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile program," according to a statement from his office. "He further calls upon the D.P.R.K. to re-establish its moratorium on missile launches, as required by the Security Council."

Senior South Korean nuclear negotiator Lim Sung-nam said his government would work with Washington to "maximize" engagement aimed at convincing Pyongyang to cancel its launch plans.

Lim was expected to travel to Washington on Wednesday for discussions on the matter, as was his Japanese counterpart, Shinsuke Sugiyama, according to Yonhap. "Chances are high that they will hold a trilateral meeting. The exact date and time have not been decided yet with related consultations still under way," a diplomatic insider in the U.S. capital said.

Meanwhile, South Korea's armed forces on Tuesday established a crisis response unit to assess the North's drive toward its next rocket launch, Yonhap reported, citing a military source.

"They will analyze [the] latest development in North Korea and distribute the information to military and related organizations," the Defense Ministry official said.

December 4, 2012
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North Korea is moving the last of three rocket stages to a launch platform, an informed government insider told the Yonhap News Agency on Tuesday in the most recent sign the nation will proceed with its stated plan to fire a rocket that many view as cover for another long-range ballistic missile test.

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