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NKorea testing radar ahead of planned launch

by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) Feb 27, 2009
North Korea is testing radar and monitoring equipment as it presses ahead with a planned missile launch, reports here said Friday, as Washington unveiled an initiative to persuade it to change course.

The communist state has apparently begun testing radar and other equipment at its launch site of Musudan-ri in the northeast, South Korea's Chosun Ilbo newspaper and Yonhap news agency reported.

In Washington, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said her new special envoy to the North would visit Seoul, Tokyo, Beijing and Moscow next week "to convince North Korea to become a constructive part of the international community."

Stephen Bosworth will discuss ways to break a deadlock in six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear disarmament involving the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.

The outgoing chief US nuclear negotiator Christopher Hill said Bosworth would also discuss ways to deter any missile launch.

Chosun Ilbo, quoting a government source, said the North has started up its Fire Work radar and other tracking and control equipment. Increased vehicle and human activity had also been observed.

"It seems that the North has begun preparations in earnest for a launch," the paper quoted the source as saying.

Seoul and Washington say it is seeking a pretext to test its Taepodong-2 missile, which could theoretically reach Alaska, and that a rocket launch for any purpose would violate a UN resolution.

The North, defying international warnings, says it is determined to go ahead with what it calls a peaceful satellite launch, but has given no date.

"We will launch a satellite as planned," Kim Myong-Gil, a North Korean envoy to the United Nations, told South Korean journalists in Atlanta on Thursday.

"Launching a satellite is part of a sovereign right which is universal. We've been exercising our sovereign right and will continue to do so. This cannot be negotiable," Kim was quoted as saying.

South Korea says it will regard any launch as a missile test, and Hill was also sceptical about the North's "space development" programme.

"The North Koreans talk about it being a satellite launch," Hill told a Washington press conference. "You can see that it looks an awful lot like a missile launch."

He said Clinton spoke by telephone with South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-Hwan on "what the best way would be to deter this launch."

"We're trying to figure out a way forward and part of Ambassador Bosworth's trip will be to continue that process," Hill added.

The North tested an atomic weapon in 2006 but it is unclear whether it can yet manufacture a nuclear warhead.

It test-launched a Taepodong-1 missile in 1998 from Musudan-ri and fired a longer-range Taepodong-2 in 2006 from the same site.

Taepodong-1, which Pyongyang claims put its first satellite into orbit, overflew Japan and fell into the Pacific, sparking international condemnation.

The Taepodong-2 failed after 40 seconds but resulted in UN sanctions.

In a 2007 six-nation deal, the North agreed to scrap its nuclear weapons in exchange for energy aid, diplomatic relations with the United States and Japan and a pact formally ending the 1950-53 Korean War.

But the last round of talks in December ended in deadlock due to arguments over ways to verify nuclear disarmament.

Clinton said Bosworth will help "to realise our goal of the complete and verifiable denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula in a peaceful manner."

Bosworth did not rule out meeting North Korean officials on his trip, but said it depends on US consultations with its partners and on "what we hear back from the North Koreans."

Hill criticised the North's tirades against Seoul's conservative government, which has taken a tougher line on relations than its predecessors. The North has scrapped all peace pacts with the South and warned of possible war.

But he said Washington has no intention of trying to topple the Pyongyang regime despite concerns about its behaviour.

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Lockheed Martin Begins Key Test Of First SBIRS Geo Satellite With New Flight Software
Sunnyvale, CA (SPX) Jan 14, 2009
Lockheed Martin reports that the first Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) geosynchronous orbit (GEO-1) satellite has entered a major test phase with the latest version of flight software designed to provide highly reliable spacecraft command and control operations.

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