Seoul: Seoul warned on Monday that it might shoot down parts of a North Korean rocket that violate South Korean territory, as worries about what Washington calls a long-range missile test overshadowed an international nuclear security summit.
Nearly 60 world leaders gathered on Monday in Seoul to talk about ways to keep nuclear material out of the hands of terrorists. But North Korea has dominated attention in Northeast Asia since announcing earlier this month that it would send a satellite into space aboard a long-range rocket.
North Korea calls the launch part of its peaceful space programme and says a new southerly flight path is meant to avoid other countries; previous rockets have been fired over Japan. Washington and Seoul, however, say the multistage rocket is meant to test delivery systems for long-range missiles that could be mounted with nuclear weapons.
"We are studying measures such as tracking and shooting down (parts) of a North Korean missile in case they stray out of their normal trajectory" and violate South Korean territory, said Yoon Won-shik, a vice spokesman at the Defence Ministry.
The South Korean and US militaries know that North Korea has moved the main body of the rocket into a building at a site near the village of Tongchang-ri in North Phyongan province and that it is making preparations for a launch, Yoon said.
The Tongchang-ri launch site is about 50 kilometers from the Chinese border city of Dandong. Analysts describe it as a new, more sophisticated site that would allow the North to fire the rocket from the west coast to avoid sending it over other countries.
President Barack Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak urged North Korea in a joint news conference yesterday to immediately stop its launch plans, warning they would deal sternly with any provocation.