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N. Korea notifies U.N. maritime agency of rocket coordinates

All Headlines 11:02 December 04, 2012

LONDON/SEOUL, Dec. 4 (Yonhap) -- North Korea has notified the International Maritime Organization (IMO) of the flight path and other details of its planned rocket launch scheduled for later this month, the United Nations maritime agency said Tuesday.

According to the London-based agency, North Korea's foreign ministry said it will launch its long-range rocket between Dec. 10 and 22, sometime between 7 a.m. and noon, and provided a list of coordinates where debris could fall.

The latest move came after Pyongyang announced Saturday it will launch a rocket carrying a "working satellite" within the 13-day window, in defiance of international calls to drop the plan seen as a cover for testing the country's long-range ballistic missile technology.

According to the notice, the first stage of the rocket is expected to fall into the Yellow Sea, about 140 kilometers west of Buan in North Jeolla Province, while the second stage should fall in waters about 136 km east of the Philippines.

The rocket cover is expected to drop about 88 kilometers west of the southern island of Jeju, if all three stages successfully separate.

Pyongyang had already notified the trajectory to its neighbors, including Japan, China and the Philippines, according to the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs.

If it goes ahead, it will be the second rocket launch attempt under leader Kim Jong-un, who took power following the death of his father Kim Jong-il nearly a year ago.

While the last launch in April ended in failure, many experts question whether the isolated communist nation has accumulated the technology to upgrade an earlier version of a rocket fired three years ago.

Cha Du-hyeon, a senior researcher at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses (KIDA), doubted whether the North has developed new technology considering the relatively short period of time since the last launch.

"Usually, it takes at least one and a half years or two years to fix technological flaws when firing missiles," Cha said. "There is a slim chance for (the North) to develop new things with their own technologies in the last eight months."

Baek Seung-joo of KIDA agreed with that view, saying the Pyongyang regime will try to use the rocket launch to fit its "political schedule" to highlight the new leadership.

According to military officials in Seoul, the Unha-2 rocket, which was fired by the North from Musudan-ri in its northeast in April 2009, flew about 3,800 kilometers to land in the Pacific Ocean.

If the Unha-3 rocket, the latest version, flies more than 4,000 km, experts say Pyongyang will be considered to have come near to developing intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities, allowing for missile launches of more than 5,500 km.


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