North Korea has begun taking apart the space rocket it plans to launch later this month in an effort to gain access to a malfunctioning module on the rocket's first stage, Reuters reported on Tuesday.
Pyongyang announced on Monday it was lengthening its launch window through Dec. 29 to address a "technical deficiency" in its three-stage Unha 3 long-range rocket. Satellite photographs taken on Tuesday revealed that personnel had begun disassembling the rocket, which was placed on the launch pad of the Dongchang-ri missile site last week, the Yonhap News Agency reported.
The latest development does not mean Pyongyang is bowing to international pressure to abandon its space launch, according to rocket specialist Kwon Se-jin of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. "For North Korean rockets, it's the only way to repair them because they build the rocket stage by stage."
"There is no change to the North's will to fire the rocket," an anonymous insider told Yonhap.
The source of the problem is thought to be a glitch in the flight management system of the rocket's initial stage, a high-ranking South Korean official informed Yonhap.
Japan, South Korea, the United States and others have condemned Pyongyang's stated plan to send a satellite into orbit as a violation of U.N. Security Council prohibitions against the Stalinist state's use of ballistic missile technology. The allies have signaled they will seek to punish North Korea with additional Security Council penalties if it proceeds with what is seen as another test of long-range missile technology.
Securing a new U.N. sanctions resolution against the North is likely to hinge on whether China decides to use its veto power to protect its longtime ally, Agence France-Presse reported.
Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast on Tuesday insisted his nation was not illicitly collaborating with Pyongyang on missile and nuclear systems, Reuters reported. Iranian missile specialists were earlier reported to be at Dongchang-ri.
Officials from Seoul will soon meet individually with Chinese and Russian representatives in hopes of persuading those nations to strong-arm Pyongyang into canceling its launch plans, Yonhap reported.
The U.S. State Department on Monday said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been "in direct" contact with her Russian and Chinese opposites regarding the rocket matter, Yonhap separately reported.