July 22, 2015 / 12:00 AM / 2 years ago

North Korea upgrades missile tower for possible October launch: Yonhap

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea has erected a new, taller launch tower at its missile base, possibly in preparation for firing a long-range rocket to mark an important national anniversary in October, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported on Wednesday.

The Unha-3 (Milky Way 3) rocket carrying the second version of Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite, is launched at West Sea Satellite Launch Site in Cholsan county, North Pyongan province, December 12, 2012 in this picture released by the North's KCNA news agency in Pyongyang early December 14, 2012. REUTERS/KCNA

The 67-metre (220-ft) tower will be able to accommodate the launch of a longer-range missile than the rocket test-fired in December 2012. That launch was widely considered successful in putting an object into space orbit, the Yonhap report said.

North Korea is banned under U.N. Security Council resolutions from conducting tests that use ballistic missile technology but has defied international warnings and sanctions to pursue missile and nuclear programs.

“Our assessment is that the North will use the newly upgraded Tongchang-ri (missile) launch pad to launch a long-range missile larger than Unha-3,” Yonhap quoted a South Korean government source as saying.

Unha-3 refers to the long-range rocket fired in 2012 from the base near its west coast.

The launch is likely to come around the 70th anniversary of the founding of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party on Oct. 10, the source was quoted as saying.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry could not immediately confirm the report but an official said they were seeking to verify it.

North Korea is believed to be developing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) but is seen as years away from deployment. It is also working to miniaturize a nuclear warhead to mount on a delivery vehicle.

Reporting by Jack Kim; Editing by Paul Tait

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