Explosion hit North Korea missile test site: report
SEOUL (AFP) Apr 21, 2003
A US spy satellite monitored a strong explosion that rocked North Korea's test site for ballistic missiles in November last year, South Korean reports said Monday.

Washington has passed information concerning the explosion to South Korean military authorities, according to Yonhap news agency.

The blast occurred during a missile engine test and crippled operations and facilities at North Korea's missile launch site at Musudan-ri, Hwadae county, northeast of Pyongyang, Seoul's Chosun Ilbo newspaper said.

The launch site in North Hamgyong province has been closely monitored by US spy satellites since Pyongyang sent shockwaves around the world by test-firing a Taepodong long-range ballistic missile that flew over Japan and into the Pacific in 1998.

The explosion caused extensive damage and has been delaying the development and test launch of North Korea's Taepodong missiles, Chosun said, adding fragments and debris flew several hundred meters (yards) across the launch site.

South Korean military officials declined to confirm the reports.

"We neither confirm nor deny the reports," a defense ministry official told

According to South Korean defence ministry data, North Korea is currently testing Taepodong-1 missiles with a range of 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) and is also developing a longer-range Taepodong-2.

Taepodong-2 could be capable of reaching parts of the continental United States.

North Korea launched at least two short-range land-to-ship missiles off its coasts earlier in February and March, sparking speculation that it would test-fire another ballistic missile.

North Korea, locked in a nuclear standoff with the United States, has indicated that Japan's recent spy satellite launch would free it from its commitment to a testing moratorium.

At a summit between the leaders of Japan and North Korea in September last year, North Korea pledged to extend its moratorium on ballistic missiles beyond 2003.

North Korea has vowed to boost its military strength, insisting it would be the next target of a pre-emptive US military attack to snuff out its suspected nuclear arms ambitions.