North Korea / N. Korea Says Rocket Is Ready for Launch -- Officials Deny Satellite a Cover for Missile Testing

Article excerpt

PYONGYANG, North Korea - North Korean space officials said Tuesday that the rocket built to carry a satellite into space was ready for liftoff this week as the nation's leadership makes a series of appointments before a major political gathering.

Workers' Party delegates are scheduled to convene today for the fourth conference of North Korea's ruling political party, where new leader Kim Jong Un is expected to inherit titles once held by his father, the late Kim Jong Il. North Korea celebrates the 100th anniversary of late President Kim Il Sung's birth Sunday, a major milestone in the country he founded.

Space officials, meanwhile, told foreign journalists at a news conference that the launch of the three-stage rocket is on target to take place between Thursday and Monday as part of the centennial birthday commemorations for Kim Il Sung.

"All the assembly and preparations of the satellite launch are done," including fueling of the rocket, Ryu Kum Chol, deputy director of the Space Development Department of the Korean Committee for Space Technology, said at the briefing at the Yanggakdo Hotel.

The Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite, equipped with a camera designed to capture images of North Korea's terrain and send back data about weather conditions, was being mounted on the rocket Tuesday.

The United States, Britain, Japan and others have urged North Korea to cancel the launch, saying it would be considered a violation of U. …