NKorea: Rocket ready for launch

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — North Korean space officials said Tuesday 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 Wednesday 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’s national flag and the red hammer-and-sickle flag of the Workers’ Party fluttered across chilly Pyongyang on Tuesday as delegates toured historic sites, including the birthplace of late President Kim Il Sung. North Korea celebrates the 100th anniversary of his birth Sunday, a major milestone in the country he founded.

New posters in the capital welcomed the delegates from provincial towns across the country. Workers scrambled to spruce up the city were painting railings a military green and crouching along roads to plant flowers.

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.

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.N. resolutions prohibiting the country from nuclear and ballistic missile activity.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the launch would be a direct threat to regional security and said the U.S. would pursue “appropriate action” at the U.N. Security Council if North Korea goes ahead with it.

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