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North Korea rocket fueling 'as we speak'; could launch tomorrow

North Korea's rocket, which its neighbors and the West say is a disguised ballistic missile test, could launch as early as Thursday.

North Korea rocket launch pad 2012 4 9Enlarge
North Korean soldiers stand guard in front of the Unha-3 rocket at Tangachai -ri space center on April 8, 2012. (PEDRO UGARTE/AFP/Getty Images)

North Korea's rocket is being fueled "as we speak," Reuters reported Wednesday, and could launch as early as Thursday. 

North Korea said the rocket will simply be used to put a weather satellite into orbit, but the hermit state's neighboring countries and the West believe it is a disguised ballistic missile test, the Daily Beast reported

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"We don't really care about the opinions from the outside," said Paek Chang-ho, head of the satellite control center at the Korean Committee of Space Technology. "This is critical in order to develop our national economy." 

The last step is to inject corrosion-causing chemicals into the rocket, which means it could launch on Thursday or any time during the following five-day window already announced by Pyongyang, according to Reuters. Weather conditions appear to favor a Thursday or Saturday launch, according to meteorological reports. 

The launch of the Unha-3 rocket is a breach of UN sanctions imposed to prevent North Korea from developing a nuclear missile, msnbc.com reported

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James Oberg, a former US space shuttle rocket scientist based in North Korea, told Reuters the rocket was not a weapon, but "98 percent of a weapon," requiring only slightly more technology. 

This is North Korea's third long-range rocket test, Reuters reported. The country says its second attempt succeeded in putting a satellite into orbit in 2009, but experts say it failed. 

Several countries, including Japan and South Korea, have said they would shoot down a rocket launched by North Korea. China, Pyongyang's only major ally, reiterated its pleas for calm on Wednesday, asking all sides to make efforts to establish peace in the region, msnbc.com reported. 

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/120411/north-korea-rocket-fueling-could-launch-thursday