February 16, 2009 / 1:26 AM / 11 years ago

North Korea has right to launch missiles - KCNA

SEOUL, Feb 16 (Reuters) - North Korean state media on Monday said the country had the right to launch its longest-range missile, after reports in the South that such a test could come by the end of the month.

North Korea says the long-range missile is a cornerstone of its peaceful space programme. It accused the United States and others of a "grave challenge" to question its intentions.

"This is a vicious trick to put a brake on the wheel of not only (North Korea’s) building of military capabilities for self-defence but also scientific research for peaceful purposes," the KCNA news agency said.

"One will come to know later what will be launched in the DPRK," it added. The DPRK is short for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The long-range missile, called the Taepodong-2 outside North Korea, is designed for military purposes and has a potential 6,700 km (4,200 mile) range that could take it as far as Alaska, experts have said. It was last tested in 2006 and blew apart seconds after launch.

The North has been assembling a Taepodong-2 and could test-fire it as early as Feb. 25, South Korea’s largest newspaper, the Chosun Ilbo, reported last week quoting intelligence sources. The possible test will likely be high on the agenda of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who starts a trip to Asia on Monday.

North Korea has rejected the term Taepodong, which is the name of the area known as its missile launch site, and instead refers to its longer-range missiles, including the one launched in 2006, as Kwangmyongsong.

(Reporting by Jack Kim; Editing by Jon Herskovitz and Dean Yates)

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