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: NVO
April 09, 2012 8:29 AM
Will all the FAKE crying for the "Supreme Buffoon" help to get the rocket off the ground? Where is all the FAKE CRYING for the "Supreme Buffoon", now?? Cry, or you will be thrown into jail by the tyranical regime. WHAT A SHAM!!!

by: Gab
April 09, 2012 8:26 AM
China doing so well right now that they are not going to start something or even stand up to their korean neighbor. And Japan, since the tsunami catastrophe, wants to get rid of all of their nuclear. What is the point of the most powerful Countries allowing every bad player on the planet have their hairy way with nuclear weapons. Is that the kind of world you want your children and grandchildren to grow up in?

April 09, 2012 7:00 AM

by: T.S.Chandrashekar
April 09, 2012 6:07 AM
North Korea is doing a great historical blunder by carrying on Nuclear Tests, Missile, instead it should improve relations with US, Japan and South Korea and try for unification. What happened to Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi, Osama Bin Laden it should not be the turn of Kim Jongun

So North Korea should strive for democracy and devl if China can have good relations with US why not North Korea???/

T.S.Chandrashekar M.A.M'PhiL/PhD South Korea
Korea Academy

by: Jonathan Huang
April 09, 2012 4:00 AM
N.K. is one of few countries dont give U.S. a sh*t. For sure US never gonna be happy, LOL

by: Inocencio Santillan C.
April 09, 2012 2:41 AM
the ne generation of gobernments thinkin y the army power, and ovoid to use hes mony in the mostimportant problems to the people, medicine, foods, work, aolene the violence, now is the moment for to be chaged, to lock, the peace in the world and tobe ueed the dialog.

by: Kyle Simmons
April 09, 2012 2:14 AM
Everybody says there is this RACE problem. Everybody says this RACE problem will be solved when the third world pours into EVERY White country and ONLY into White countries.

Everybody says the final solution to this RACE problem is for EVERY White country and ONLY White countries to “assimilate,” i.e., intermarry, with all those non-Whites.

They say they are anti-racist. What they are is anti-White.
Anti-racist is a code word for anti-White.
Comments page of 2

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