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Increased activity at Musudan-ri indicates N. Korea preparing for another rocket launch
SEOUL, Feb. 15 (Yonhap) -- Recent progress in the construction of new facilities and a general increase in activity at North Korea's Musudan-ri launch site may be an indication that the belligerent nation might launch another rocket following the detonation of its third nuclear device, a Web site specializing in North Korean affairs said Friday.

   "Construction of new facilities at the Tonghae Satellite launching ground, previously disrupted by typhoons that ravaged the east coast last summer, has made important progress since late Oct. 2012," U.S. Web site "38 North" said in a posting, referring to the launch pad.

   Satellite imagery of the location confirmed that measures are underway to "possibly modify it in preparation for an upcoming test of a liquid-fueled rocket," the posting said.

   For the upcoming test, the country may launch a KN-08 long-range missile or another version of the Unha rocket, which the country launched in December last year, the Web site said, citing media speculations.

   38 North also said that "imagery of the new launch pad and support buildings indicate that Pyongyang will be able to test rockets perhaps three to four times the size of the Unha when construction is completed, possibly in 2016."

   Pyongyang's rocket program may be receiving assistance from Iran, 38 North claimed, citing a new flame trench covering to protect large rockets from gas exhaust at the North launch pad, which the Web site said is similar to the covering used at a new launch pad at the Semnan Launch Complex in Iran.

   The Tonghae launch ground is one of the North's two major launching locations. It was used when the country launched the Taepodong-1 missile in 1998 and the Unha rockets in 2006 and 2009.

   The country used its west coast launch ground, also known as Tongchang-ri, for the launch of two rockets last year.

   Meanwhile, after receiving heavy flak for the Feb. 12 test of a nuclear bomb, the North said it plans to take further actions, which could include the launch of more rockets or another nuclear test.

   pbr@yna.co.kr
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