News

North Korean Rocket Readied for Expected Launch

Analysts say the close-up view of a North Korean rocket on the launch pad and the satellite it is supposed to carry into space has allowed them to make some fresh conclusions about the reclusive and impoverished country's technical capabilities.



Video images and photographs taken during a media viewing of what North Korea is calling the Unha-3 rocket have given defense analysts and the intelligence community a fresh opportunity to assess the state of Pyongyang's ballistic missile development.

An initial conclusion: North Korea seems to have made significant progress since its failed attempt, three years ago, to conduct a three-stage launch and put a satellite into orbit.

The April 2009 launch was of a Taepodong-2 ballistic missile, believed to be of Soviet design with a third stage of Chinese origin. The second and third stages fell into the Pacific Ocean about 3,800 kilometers from the launch site, far short of the missile's goal.

Retired vice admiral Hideaki Kaneda of Japan's Maritime Self Defense Force says there is no doubt that what is on the Sohae launch pad has military applications.

Kaneda, in an NHK interview, noted an apparent cluster of four rocket engines housed in the first stage. He described that as worrisome because four nozzles in the first stage leave no doubt that this rocket could be utilized as a long-range ballistic missile, capable of not only reaching Japan, but also the U.S. mainland.

South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-suk was asked about the apparent advances observed this week.

The defense ministry spokesman says that because South Korean officials did not visit there, they are not in a position to comment on the technical capabilities of the North Korean rocket.

North Korea says the third stage is to carry an earth observation satellite into a north-south orbit.



Although the solar-powered Kwangmyongsong-3 would pass over South Korea in every orbit, analysts do not consider it to be a spy satellite, but rather on the level of what college students around the world have been able to build in recent years.

Among those studying the new images of the satellite is the manager of the satellite technology research center at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in Daejung.

Kang Kyung-in tells VOA the North Korea satellite does not appear to be built for long-term duty nor is it technologically advanced.

Kang says it seems like it is capable of capturing simple photographs and low resolution video and transmitting them back to North Korea.

Officials here say South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin and U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, in a 30-minute telephone call, Tuesday morning Asia time, agreed the planned North Korean launch would be a “grave provocation.” The two countries are among those terming the 30-meter rocket a violation of United Nations sanctions prohibiting Pyongyang from utilizing ballistic missile technology.

Both South Korea and Japan are vowing to attempt to shoot down the North Korean rocket if its veers off course and over their territories.

North Korea has notified relevant international aviation and maritime authorities that it will conduct the launch between Thursday morning and next Monday.

Officials in North Korea say the launch is timed to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of the country's founder, the late Kim Il Sung.

A further concern to the international community is recent satellite imagery showing activity at North Korea's nuclear test site. That has led South Korean military and intelligence officials to speculate that the North may follow the missile launch with its third nuclear test within the next several months.

The two Koreas have technically remained at war since a 1953 armistice halted three years of bloodshed.



Steve Herman

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

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs