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U.S. and allies on alert as N.K. prepares for rocket launch

Seoul and Washington are closely monitoring North Korea’s rocket launch developments as increased activities have been detected around the launch facility.

On Thursday CNN reported that a rise in activities was detected at the launch site in Dongchang-ri on the west coast of North Korea.

According to CNN, satellite photographs of the site taken at the end of March showed marked differences from those taken on March 28.

The latest photographs showed that the direction of the launch tower had changed, while more equipment and vehicles were seen near the tower.

The photographs also showed equipment suspected of being fuel containers, and signs of road repairs around the facility.

As Pyongyang readies for the launch sometime between April 12 and 16, Seoul and its allies are making preparations for possible developments.

“Along with our partners in the region, we are monitoring developments very closely,” U.S. Department of Defense Press Secretary George Little said at a press briefing on Tuesday.

As Washington keeps a close eye on the developments, neighboring countries including Japan and Taiwan have announced that they will shoot the rocket down should it violate their air space.

As the launch date nears, North Korea has been criticizing South Korea with increasing vehemence, reiterating its claims that the rocket will be carrying a satellite.

“Reckless military provocation will be punished with a merciless and annihilative strike,” the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland spokesman said on Thursday, referring to South Korea’s response to Pyongyang’s rocket launch plans. South Korean military has made it clear that the rocket will be shot down if it deviates from its intended trajectory and enters South Korean air space.

The North Korean committee also criticized the South Korean military’s plans to carry out a strike on a “corresponding target” and warned Seoul against any actions concerning the rocket.

“Intercepting a peaceful satellite is tantamount to an act of war that will result in destructive consequences, and it is a big miscalculation to think that it is possible to survive after striking Pyongyang.”

On April 2, it was made known that Seoul’s Ministry of National Defense has drawn up “corresponsive target attack plans.” Under the plans, South Korean military will carry out an attack on Pyongyang should the North target Seoul in a military strike.

“Daring to disturb Pyongyang’s skies will be returned with rain of fire thousands and tens of thousands times larger, resulting in the most pitiful destruction. It will mean the end of the puppet government and of everything in the South.”

By Choi He-suk  (cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)
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