N Korea starts assembling long-range missile
North Korea appears to have begun assembling a missile believed capable of striking US soil, a report said yesterday as tensions rose along the land and sea border with the South.
The communist regime of ailing North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il has defied international criticism of its second nuclear test by firing a volley of short-range missiles and threatening to attack the capitalist South.
It is now said to be preparing to test-launch an intercontinental ballistic missile as well as several medium-range missiles.
The North is believed to have started putting together a long-range missile that may be a modified version of the Taepodong-2 which it fired over Japan in April, South Korea's JoongAng Ilbo daily reported Wednesday.
Although the missile is being kept under covers, "the length of its propulsion rocket seems to be longer than the last one fired in April although its shape looks similar," it quoted a government source as saying.
The North said its last long-range rocket launch on April 5 was to put a satellite into orbit.
The United States and its allies said it was really a test of the Taepodong-2, which could theoretically reach Alaska at maximum range.
"After carrying out a missile test, it usually takes at least six months to adjust defects and prepare to fire another one," said an unnamed military official quoted by the JoongAng Ilbo.
"Now, the North is preparing to do it again after just two months. It seems the North is in quite a hurry."
Analysts believe Kim is trying to bolster his authority so he can put in place a succession plan reportedly involving his third son, 26-year-old Kim Jong-Un.
South Korean and US forces on the peninsula are on heightened alert after the North warned of a possible attack in response to Seoul's decision to join a US-led initiative to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
The situation is tense along the heavily fortified land border, where North and South Korean troops eye each other warily from either side of the demarcation line.