US research group claims North Korea 'upgrading major missile launch site'

Last Updated: Fri, Feb 15, 2013 06:56 hrs

Washington: North Korea is upgrading one of its two major missile launch sites, a U.S. research institute has said.

An analysis written for 38 North, the website of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, indicated that North Korea has made significant progress since October in constructing a new launchpad and other facilities at Tonghae, on the country's northeast coast.

The assessment is based on commercial satellite photos, the latest taken in January.

According to CBS News, the report said that some design features suggest it is getting help from Iran.

It said design features, including a flame trench covering that protects large rockets from the hot exhaust gases they emit on takeoff, is similar to one at a launch complex in Semnan, Iran.

The analysis also identified activity at an older launchpad at Tonghae, last used for a long-range rocket in 2009, but said it is unclear if that indicates preparations for another launch there.

According to the report, 38 North estimates that construction at Tonghae's new launch pad could be completed by 2016.

It said tanks installed last fall into support buildings that would be used to store fuel propellant prior to a launch would be big enough for rockets three or four times larger than the Unha.

The revelation emerge a week after North Korea 'successful' conducted its third nuclear test in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions. 

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