Pyongyang rejects visit by UN envoy as tensions mount

AFP , SEOUL

Mon, Feb 23, 2009 - Page 5

North Korea has rejected a proposed trip by a UN envoy next month amid rising tensions over a possible missile test by Pyongyang, a news report said yesterday.

Yonhap news agency, quoting an unnamed US diplomatic source, said UN Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Lynn Pascoe had proposed a visit early next month.

“Saying that it is not an appropriate time, North Korea has virtually rejected the offer,” the source was quoted as saying.

The North’s planned long-range Taepodong missile test might be one of the reasons for rejecting the visit, the source said.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, a former South Korean foreign minister, has sought to send an envoy to assess the situation on the peninsula, Yonhap said.

North Korea could be ready to test-fire an intermediate range ballistic missile by the end of the month, defense analysis group Jane’s said on Friday.

Experts at Jane’s Defence Weekly said satellite imagery taken on Wednesday indicated that Pyongyang was preparing to either launch a Taepodong-2 missile or a Paektusan-2 space launch vehicle.

Preparations included activation or installation of telemetry equipment and radars, the arrival of numerous trucks and support vehicles, a rise in activity at the engine test stand, and launch pad and umbilical tower maintenance.

The magazine also said that support facilities for the engine test stand were being expanded.

Tensions have risen since the North canceled all peace accords with South Korea, including one recognizing the Yellow Sea border as an interim frontier.

The area saw deadly naval clashes in 1999 and 2002.

Seoul’s defense chief warned on Friday that his troops would target North Korean launch sites if his navy ships came under missile attack in the Yellow Sea.

The North’s military announced on Thursday that it was “fully ready” for war with South Korea.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has rolled back his predecessors’ policy of largely unconditional aid and engagement with the North.