North Korea vowed yesterday to press ahead with test-firing what neighboring governments believe is a long-range missile, but it sought to portray the launch as part of a space program amid growing pressure to drop the plan.
Pyongyang? official Korean Central News Agency (KNCA) made the statement on the 67th birthday of South Korean leader Kim Jong-il and as US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was en route to Asia for meetings where North Korea? missile and nuclear programs were expected to be a focus.
KCNA said North Korea has the right to ?pace development??a term the country has used in the past to disguise a missile test as a satellite launch.
It also accused the US and other countries of trying to block the country? ?eaceful scientific research?by linking it to a missile test.
?ne will come to know later what will be launched?from North Korea, KCNA said, adding that ?ostile forces spread the rumor about?the country? ?reparations for launching a long-distance missile.?br />
When North Korea test-fired a long-range missile in 1998, it claimed to have put a satellite into orbit.
?t means they?e going to fire a missile as a satellite launch,?Kim Yong-hyun, a professor at Seoul? Dongguk University, said of the KCNA report.
He called the North? space-program claim a ?reventive?measure because a missile launch could result in punitive steps from the international community.
In Pyongyang, North Koreans celebrated Kim Jong-il? birthday by viewing a special exhibition of Kimjongilia flowers set beside a replica of a missile, APTN North Korean footage showed.
People also paid homage to his late father, North Korean founder Kim Il-sung, and danced in the city? main square in freezing temperatures.
South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan warned North Korea that any launch ?whether a missile or satellite ?would be in violation of a UN Security Council resolution in 2006 that demanded Pyongyang ?uspend all activities related to its ballistic missile program.?br />
? missile and a satellite are the same in principle, and are different only in their payload,?Yu told lawmakers.
The KCNA report comes amid growing international pressure on Pyongyang to back out of apparent plans to carry out a test launch of a missile believed capable of reaching US territory.
Washington, Tokyo and Seoul have repeatedly urged North Korea to abstain from firing a missile.
Clinton, before departing for Asia, also urged Pyongyang not to take any provocative actions.
Clinton was due to arrive in Japan late yesterday on the first leg of her trip that also includes stops in South Korea, China and Indonesia.
On Sunday, Clinton said North Korea needed to live up to commitments to dismantle its nuclear programs, saying Washington was willing to normalize ties with it in return for nuclear disarmament.
?he North Koreans have already agreed to dismantling,?she said. ?e expect them to fulfill the obligations that they entered into.?br />
Pyongyang has reportedly moved a long-range Taepodong-2 missile ?its most advanced ?to a launch site on the country? northeastern coast.
South Korean media have said a launch could come late this month.
Seoul? mass-circulation 胡oongAng Ilbo newspaper yesterday said that North Korea had moved all necessary equipment to fire a missile to the Musudan-ni site on its northeastern coast and that a launch could be ready earlier than expected.