North Korea Fuels Rocket Ready for Launch

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North Korea have announced to the media that it has begun to fuel its rocket ahead of its test flight.

Paek Chang-ho, head of the satellite control centre of the Korean Committee of Space Technology, made the announcement that the fuel was being injected “as we speak”.

Many critics around the world fear that the launch, expected between 12-16 April, is a test of long-range missile technology.

The launch comes as Kim Jong-un succeeded his father Kim Jong-il earlier this year.

State capital Pyongyang insist that the rocket will launch a satellite into space enhancing only its research programme.

“We are injecting fuel as we speak. It has started,” Mr Paek told visiting foreign journalists outside the capital, Pyongyang.

“And as for the exact timing of the launch, it will be decided by my superiors.”

The journalists were taken on Sunday to the Sohae satellite station at Tongchang-ri, on the country’s north-west coast, to see the final preparations.

The launch will also mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of the country’s late leader Kim Il-sung.

The North has festivities planned in the lead up to Kim Il-sung’s commemoration on Sunday.

Aside from the ongoing meeting of the ruling Korean Worker’s Party, an annual session of the parliament to pass new legislation is also scheduled for Friday. Both meetings are expected to further consolidate the transition of power to Kim Jong-un.

Neighbouring countries that may be in the rocket’s path have made preparations. South Korea and Japan have said they will shoot down the rocket if it threatens their territory, and the Philippines has re-routed air and sea traffic.

South Korea has also warned the North it risks further isolation if it goes ahead.

US Secretary of State

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the North wanted a “peaceful, better future” for its people it should not launch the rocket, calling the move a direct threat to regional security.

Pyongyang agreed in February to a partial freeze in nuclear activities and a missile test moratorium in return for US food aid. But that deal was put on hold last month after the North announced its rocket launch plans.