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N. Korea dismisses rumors of upcoming ballistic missile test


MOSCOW, February 16 (RIA Novosti) - North Korea blasted on Monday media rumors that it was planning to test a long-range missile, describing a possible rocket launch as part of a domestic space program.

Intelligence sources earlier said North Korea was probably preparing to fire a long-range Taepodong-2 missile from the newly constructed Musudan-ri launch pad on the country's northeast coast.

"This is a vicious trick to put a brake on the wheel of not only the DPRK's building of military capability for self-defense, but also scientific research for peaceful purpose," the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said as the communist state celebrated the 67th birthday of leader Kim Jong-Il.

"Wait and you will come to know later what will be launched in the DPRK [North Korea]," it said, adding that North Korea has a sovereign right to space exploration.

Pyongyang has a history of testing long-range missiles under the guise of launching satellites.

It first tested a long-range missile in 1998, when it launched a Taepodong-1 over northern Japan and claimed that it carried a domestically-developed satellite.

In 2002, Pyongyang agreed with Tokyo to a moratorium on missile tests, but the secretive regime has continued research on ballistic missile technology.

In July 2006, N. Korea test-launched its Taepodong-2 long-range missile and also staged an underground test of a nuclear device.

The Taepodong-2 reportedly has a maximum range of 6,700 kilometers (4,190 miles), which would make it capable of hitting the U.S. states of Alaska and Hawaii, as well as South Korea and Japan.

Experts believe the impoverished country is not capable of developing a domestic space program and the planned rocket launch was simply an attempt to draw the Barack Obama administration's attention to the issue of the stalled six-party talks on N. Korea's controversial nuclear program.

However, KCNA said: "The DPRK has no need to draw anyone's attention and does not want anybody to interfere or meddle in the issue of the Korean peninsula."

The six-nation talks, involving North Korea, South Korea, Russia, Japan, China and the United States, were launched in 2003 after Pyongyang withdrew from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Under deals reached in 2007, the reclusive communist regime began disabling a nuclear reactor and other facilities at Yongbyon under U.S. supervision in exchange for economic aid and political incentives.

In 2008, the United States removed North Korea from the blacklist of countries supporting international terrorism after Pyongyang gave assurances on verification measures, but made it clear that Iran and North Korea are still considered by Washington as dangerous.

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