N. Korea Prepares 'Space Launch' Amid Reports of Plans for Nuclear Test

A crowd of media gather around a North Korean official in front of North Korea's Unha-3 rocket, slated for liftoff between April 12-16, at Sohae Satellite Station in Tongchang-ri, North Korea, April 8, 2012.
A crowd of media gather around a North Korean official in front of North Korea's Unha-3 rocket, slated for liftoff between April 12-16, at Sohae Satellite Station in Tongchang-ri, North Korea, April 8, 2012.

North Korea has placed a three-stage rocket on the launch pad at a new, more sophisticated facility facing the Yellow Sea. It plans to launch what it calls an earth observation satellite as early as Thursday. There are also indications the reclusive and impoverished country is preparing for a third nuclear weapons test, as well.

Satellite imagery, taken last week, shows piles of dirt near a newly excavated tunnel entrance at North Korea's nuclear test site. A summary of a South Korean intelligence report accompanying the photos, obtained by VOA says the excavation at the Punggye-ri test site is in its final stages.

Analysts say Pyongyang wants to demonstrate to the world that it is capable of carrying out a nuclear test at any time.

Meanwhile, North Korea, at a separate site, has placed on the launch pad what it is calling the Unha-3 rocket. It appears virtually identical to the three-stage liquid-fueled ballistic missile it fired over Japan three years ago.

The United States, South Korea, the European Union and Japan are condemning the planned launch, saying it will clearly violate United Nations sanctions forbidding Pyongyang from utilizing ballistic missile technology.

Jang Myong Jin, the general manager of the launch site, says North Korea has a sovereign right to carry out a space launch.

Speaking to correspondents taken to the launch site, Jang says, in recent talks between his government and U.S. officials, North Korea made clear that its moratorium pledge applied to long range missiles, but not satellites.

Senior research fellow Baek Seung-joo, at the Korea Institute for Defense Analysis in Seoul, says Pyongyang's scientists have had a lot of time since their last attempt to put a satellite into space to greatly improve their ballistic missile capabilities.

Baek says North Korea, in the interim, has likely exchanged technology with Iran which has made three successful satellite launches. And, Baek says, the North Korean engineers seem to have a high level of confidence their third attempt will succeed.

Additional international sanctions were imposed on North Korea following its second missile launch and nuclear test in 2009.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

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Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: Carl
April 09, 2012 11:33 PM
You always do this, why deny N.Korea
Stop bullying

by: hamad part 1 of 1
April 09, 2012 6:38 PM
It seems that the policy of starvation is not working to enslave North Korean.
China knew this political game very well. Save your food aid for your poor people who have been extending . VOA has been puppet on the hands of AIPAC to promote for its agenda and well-paid candidates from the money of Christian Americans. Is that weird? Do Not worry about national security of Japan because Fukuhsima crisis has threatened the lives of Japanese children more than North Korea ballistic missile .

by: NVO
April 09, 2012 6:37 PM
The FACT of the matter is: The NK tyranical regime is a SHAM! Plain and simple! Starve your own people, you are NOT allowed to leave the country, you are to cry for the SUPREME BUFFOON whom is now in Hades, then will be in Gehenna, and if you don't cry, you are put in Jail! That is preposterous!!!
People of NK, stand up to the tyranical regime, and EXODUS THAT COUNTRY!

by: Jonathan Huang
April 09, 2012 2:55 PM
to Gab, do you think Iraq and Afghanistan now are that kind of place their children want to grow up in? Don't you think N.K. is doing everything to prevent their country from being like Iraq and Afghanistan? They'd rather be starving than being treated like garbage by US soldiers.

by: Jonathan Huang
April 09, 2012 2:50 PM
@T.S.Chandrashekar India, dont be a fool of west propaganda. What happened to Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya only adjusts N.K. decisions that only strong military power can stop U.S. greedy invasion and protect their country. And I am 100% sure majority north Koreans support developing nuclear weapons and long range rockets and they hate U.S.

by: NVO
April 09, 2012 2:18 PM
North Korea, a SHAM of a country with re to the tyranical regime, a SHAM! Plain and simple. Starve your own people, but make sure you "cry" for the SUPREME BUFFOON, or you will be thrown into jail. Exodus that country and leave the regime to die for their SECULAR selves!

by: CharlieSeattle
April 09, 2012 1:54 PM
Is North Korea not using the telemetry data and chips that Clinton gave to China?

Is China not sharing or is North Korea just not smart enough to use it...yet?

Gave China Chips for Nuclear War

Charles R. SmithWednesday, Oct. 1, 2003

Newly declassified documents show that President Bill Clinton
personally approved the transfer to China of advanced space technology that can
be used for nuclear combat.

Google this thread to read the rest: clinton, loral, china

by: Robert Borchert
April 09, 2012 12:28 PM
The United States is the one nation that has welcomed immigrants from around the world, with open arms. People emigrate from abroad in hope of joining as Americans. E Pluribus Unum. I fail to understand your "white" comments. Leave race out of the equation. I'm proud to be a son of immigrants, an American. My brothers and I have all served our country in return, proudly, on land, air, and sea.

by: chris birrow
April 09, 2012 11:34 AM
America, England, USSR should stop developing necliar wapon as an example, before they can stop other countries.

by: kafantaris
April 09, 2012 10:03 AM
Ignore these fools.
If they can ignore their impoverished masses to conduct expensive missile tests -- when no one is even remotely threatening then -- they deserve no further consideration from any of us.
They can conduct all the missile tests they want with their primitive rocket technology. We ain't scared.
But they’ve better not cut too many corners in their rush to show off or they will blow themselves up.
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