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(2nd LD) S. Korea retrieves 6 debris from 'N. Korean rocket engine'

SEOUL, Dec. 28 — South Korea has retrieved half a dozen items of debris believed to be from the engine from North Korea's long-range rocke.

This finding could provide clues to the communist nation's rocket technologies, a defense ministry official said Friday.

The debris was pulled from waters about 160 kilometers west of the western port city of Gunsan in a two-day operation since Wednesday, the ministry official said, adding that they appear to have been damaged a lot from the shock at the time of the crash.

A Navy salvage ship and five minesweeper vessels were mobilized for the salvage operation.

Six deep-sea divers alternately reached the bottom of the sea, about 88 meters from surface, during the operation, the official said.

North Korea successfully launched the Unha-3 rocket on Dec. 12 and put a satellite into orbit, fueling concerns Pyongyang is closer to developing intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons as far as the mainland U.S.

Seoul, Washington and other countries condemned the launch as a disguised test of missile technology and a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions that ban Pyongyang from any ballistic activity over concerns it could be used for missile development.

The rocket's first stage fell in the Yellow Sea and the second stage near the Philippines.

South Korea's Navy has been scouring the area where the first stage fell to retrieve debris. Including the latest finding, 10 items of debris have been recovered so far.

They include parts of the rocket's oxidizer container and fuel tank.

"Should the object retrieved this time be confirmed to be engine debris, it will be useful for analyzing North Korea's long-range rocket technologies," a military official said. (PNA/Yonhap)

HBC/SSC

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