Saturday, August 05, 2006

North Korea Removes Taepodong-2 Missile From Launch Site

North Korea may have relocated a long-range Taepodong-2 missile from a launch site from which it test-fired missiles last month, Yonhap News Agency reported Friday, quoting a government official. The purported missile was one of two Taepodong-2 missiles assembled at the launch site in the eastern district of Musudan-ri, North Hamkyong Province, where the first missile was launched on July 5 along with six other short- and mid-range missiles from other launch sites. "The (second) Taepodong-2 seems to have disappeared from Musudan-ri in mid-July," said Yang Chang-seok, a spokesman for the Unification Ministry, according to Yonhap.Yang and Defense Ministry officials said they were still "uncertain" whether the North has in fact removed the missile, but refused to elaborate where the uncertainties came from. The Taepodong-2 missile is believed to be capable of reaching as far as the US west coast at its full capacity. The removal, if true, is expected to help soothe the tension between the North and South Korea sparked by the North's missile launches, as the presence of the second missile at the launch site has been believed to be a sign of additional missile launches, said the report. Such concerns for a second launch, at least in part, have led to an unusually strong reaction from the UN Security Council, which unanimously passed a resolution condemning the North's missile launches and prohibiting any missile-related dealings with the North, only 10 days after the communist state test-fired the seven missiles. The officials were quoted as saying that there are two possible reasons for the alleged removal, which include adjusting or improving the missile before an eventual launch. Another possible explanation, according to the officials, is that the North has temporarily, or permanently, relocated the missile due to damages from recent floods there.