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N. Korea closes off range in Sea of Japan for major missile test

SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Monday, March 10, 2003

LONDON North Korea is preparing to launch its new Taepo Dong-2 in the country's first major missile test in nearly five years.

Western diplomatic sources said Pyongyang has taken preparations for an intermediate-range test in the Sea of Japan over the next few days. They said North Korea has closed off an area in the sea for the preparations.



"We are aware that they are preparing to fire a missile, probably between this weekend and early next week," a South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman said on Saturday.

On Feb. 24, North Korea fired a short-range anti-ship cruise missile into the Sea of Japan. The sources said U.S. spy photographs of the test determined that the test was a failure.

South Korean Defense Minister Cho Young-kil told a parliamentary committee on Friday that the surface-to-air missile struck the water about 110 kilometers from its point of launch, off the coast of South Hamkyong Province. The missile was estimated to have a total range of 160 kilometers.

"The test is thought to have failed due to defects in the guided missile," Cho said in a report to the committee on Friday.

In 1998, North Korea fired the Taepo Dong-1 missile over Japan. The missile was later marketed to such Middle East clients as Iran and Libya.

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