SEOUL - NORTH Korea has built an underground fuelling station at its long-range missile test site, making it harder for US spy satellites to predict the date of a launch, a news report said on Thursday.
The communist state, defying international warnings, said Tuesday its preparations to launch a satellite are making 'brisk headway' but gave no date for the exercise.
Seoul and Washington see such a launch as a pretext to test the Taepodong-2 missile, which could theoretically reach Alaska, in violation of a UN resolution.
South Korea's Dong-a Ilbo newspaper, quoting intelligence sources, said Pyongyang completed the underground facility at Musudan-ri on its northeast coast sometime between late 2008 and early this year.
The North formerly used trucks and ground facilities visible from spy satellites to fuel its missiles.
'If liquid fuel is pumped into missile projectiles at underground facilities, the North can dodge US surveillance satellites,' one source told Dong-a.
'The North is now capable of conducting the most important part of preparations for a missile launch behind the scenes.' Another intelliegence source told Dong-a the new facilities would likely shorten the preparation time to one or two days. Previously fuelling took four or five days, according to Dong-a.
South Korea's National Intelligence Service had no comment on the report.
The North test-launched a Taepodong-1 missile in 1998 from Musudan-ri and fired a Taepodong-2 in 2006 from the same site. The Taepodong-2 failed after 40 seconds but sparked international concern and UN missile-related sanctions. -AFP