North Korea missile site 'confirmed'

The South Korean defence minister, Lee Sang-Hee, said North Korea is building a new launch site for long-range missiles.

The satellite image, taken on June 22, 2008, shows part of the Tongch'ang-dong facility near Pongdong-ni, North Korea.
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The South Korean defence minister Lee Sang-Hee said today that North Korea is building a new launch site for long-range missiles. "We're aware of it, about 80 per cent of the work has been completed and we're watching it closely," Mr Lee has been quoted by aides as saying at a closed-door session of the parliament's defence committee. He was responding to a lawmaker who asked whether it is true that the communist state has established a second test site and launch pad for intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

The minister gave no further details, the aides said. An independent analyst who has seen imagery of the site said yesterday that the facility is designed to support a significant flight test programme. "It is significant because it indicates an intention to develop a capability of developing a reliable ICBM," said John Pike, director of, a research group which specialises in security issues.

Mr Pike said the site was discovered on the west coast of North Korea near China by Joseph Bermudez, an analyst at Jane's Intelligence Group. There is also a smaller site for ICBMs at Musudan-ri on the east coast. North Korea used this site to launch a Taepodong-1 missile in 1998 over Japan. A Taepodong-2 missile was launched from there in 2006, but it failed. Mr Pike said the new site was much larger, more elaborate and with better transport connections.

"It is set up to do a launch three or four times a year, rather than every decade," he said. The facility has a standard test stand, a dynamic test stand and a relatively sophisticated launch pad for ICBMs or space shots, he said. Mr Pike said the main North Korean launch pad on the west coast appeared a year or two away from completion. North Korea conducted a nuclear weapons test in 2006. It it is not known whether it has the technical capacity to fit an atomic warhead to a missile. *AFP