Prospects Dim for N.Korean Rocket Launch

/Yonhap /Yonhap

North Korea has removed a rocket it plans to launch later this month from the launch pad in Tongchang-ri, North Pyongan Province and is apparently repairing it.

The North on Monday said it decided to extend the launch window by one week from Dec. 22 to 29 due to a technical glitch in the "first-stage control engine module."

"The North seems to have removed all the boosters from the launch pad and carried them back to the assembly shed to fix problems," a South Korean government official said. The camouflage netting has also been removed from the launch pad.

But the official added there is no indication that the North has given up on the launch altogether.

The "first-stage control engine module" to which the North attributed to the glitch is presumably the thrust vector control, a device that controls the direction of the first-stage booster, the Defense Ministry in Seoul speculated.

A rocket expert with a state-run think tank here said there would be no need to disassemble the rocket to fix a glitch in the electronic system, so it is possible that the delay was caused by a more serious problem than the North admitted.

So far, some 28 countries including China, Japan, Russia, the U.S. and the EU as well as international organizations like the UN and NATO have denounced the rocket launch plan, which is widely seen as a cover to test long-range missile technology.

englishnews@chosun.com / Dec. 12, 2012 09:23 KST