N.Korea 'Told U.S. of Rocket Launch Plans'

      December 04, 2012 09:43

      North Korea notified the U.S. of its plan to launch a space rocket between Dec. 10 and 22 through the so-called New York channel, meaning its permanent representative to the UN there.

      Han Song-ryol, the North's deputy ambassador to the UN, told the special U.S. envoy for the dormant six-party nuclear talks Clifford Hart of the plan, according to a diplomat in Washington.

      The North told the U.S. about the launch "either just before or simultaneously" with its public announcement but gave no further details, the diplomat said.

      Meanwhile, Pyongyang has announced where it believes the discarded parts of the rocket will fall to earth.

      The Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs here said North Korea has informed China, Singapore and Europe that the first-stage booster is expected to fall into the high seas 140 km off the coast of Buan, North Jeolla Province.

      That is some 18 km further south and about 6 km to the east of where the North said it would fall during the last failed launch in April this year.

      The second stage is expected to land around 136 km east of the Philippines, the same coordinates as in April. The fairings are expected to drop into the ocean around 88 km west of Jeju Island.

      In earlier launch attempts in 1998 and 2006, North Korea did not reveal the expected impact points of the different stages of its rocket. That it is doing so now suggests that it may be more confident of its technology, according to a rocket expert at a state-run research institute here.

      He added the announcement could also be intended to lend credence to its claims that the launch is part of a peaceful space program rather than a cover for testing long-range missile technology, as is widely believed.

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