Saturday, March 28, 2009

U.S. intel head disputes N. Korea's claim

WASHINGTON, March 27 (UPI) -- The U.S. intelligence chief challenged North Korea's repeated claim it will launch a satellite into space next month, not a missile test.

"Most of the world understands the game they are playing," National Intelligence Director Dennis C. Blair said during a news briefing. "I think they're risking international opprobrium and hopefully worse if they successfully launch it."

Satellite images indicate North Korea is in the final stages of assembling a multistage rocket at a launch site along its coast, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday. North Korea says it plans to launch a communications satellite between April 4-8, but Western leaders said they are concerned that the launch is a missile test-firing.

Western nations and North Korea have been sparring over consequences of the launch, with the United States, South Korea and Japan saying they would seek punitive action from the United Nations, while Pyongyang threatening to reverse the steps it has taken on nuclear disarmament if sanctions are imposed.

"They're trying to use the rationale of a legitimate space launch for a missile, which is in its foundation a military missile," Blair said, describing the rocket as a Taepodong, a multistage missile that may be capable of reaching Alaska.

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