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North Korea's rocket launch window opens

12 april 2012, 17:53
A book of late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is seen in display in Pyongyang. ©AFP
A book of late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is seen in display in Pyongyang. ©AFP
North Korea's five-day window to launch a rocket that has deeply antagonised global opinion opened on Thursday with no immediate signs of takeoff being imminent, AFP reports.

The communist state has said it will launch the rocket between Thursday and Monday, most likely between 2200 GMT and 0300 GMT, to mark Sunday's centenary of the birth of its founding leader Kim Il-Sung.

The rocket will place a satellite in orbit for peaceful research purposes, North Korea says, but Western critics see the launch as a thinly veiled ballistic missile test. The United Nations has banned such tests by Pyongyang.

North Korea says it has installed the satellite payload and fuelled the 30-metre (100-foot) rocket, but officials in South Korea and Japan said there was no sign that liftoff was about to happen on Thursday morning.

"So we believe there is very little possibility of the rocket being launched today, as it said earlier the launch would take place between 7:00 am and noon," a South Korean government official told Yonhap news agency.

A spokesman for South Korea's defence ministry told reporters: "We're closely watching developments."

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said his country was on full alert, while urging North Korea to show "self-restraint until the last minute".

"But we want to be fully prepared for any possible contingency," Noda said, after ordering the deployment of anti-missile batteries on land and at sea to shoot down the rocket if it threatens Japanese territory.

The Japanese government's top spokesman Osamu Fujimura told reporters in Tokyo that he had no fresh information about the planned launch.

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