News / Asia

    Satellite Imagery Suggests Future Large N. Korean Rocket Launch

    Victor Beattie

    The U.S.-Korea Institute has released satellite photographs indicating North Korea may be nearing completion of construction and testing leading to long-range missile and satellite launches.  The images were made public Tuesday as the top U.S. Navy Pacific commander cautioned the global community against indifference to the pace of the North’s advances in nuclear and missile technology.

    Satellite imagery

    The U.S.-Korea Institute’s 38 North website released satellite imagery Tuesday suggesting that activity at its Sohae Satellite Launching Station means it is preparing for long-range ballistic missile and satellite launches.  It said the height of the gantry for launches has been increased to over 50 meters and expects construction of an associated rail spur and road to accommodate larger rockets will be complete next year.

    The website said another series of tests of the KN-08 road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile’s first stage rocket motor could end this year, although how successful those tests are remains a mystery.  It also expects full-scale flight testing will be the next step.

    The KN-08 was unveiled during a military parade in Pyongyang in April, 2012, although analysts were divided whether it was a mock-up, rather than real missile.  In December of that year, the North sent a satellite into orbit on a multi-stage launch vehicle.

    Ralph Cossa, head of the Hawaii-based security think-tank Pacific Forum, said, if the report is accurate, it is a sobering development. "If they develop a road-mobile missile, that increases their offensive capabilities, increases the survivability of their nuclear force, and I think it’s something that we have to take very seriously," he said.

    Timing, long-range missiles

    Cossa, however, believes North Korea is a long way from having an operational, long-range intercontinental missile with a nuclear warhead.

    At U.S. defense headquarters at the Pentagon Tuesday, the head of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Command, Admiral Samuel Locklear, said there is broad debate within the intelligence community about how much capability North Korea has to weaponize long-range missiles.

    "As a military commander, I have to plan for the worst and I have to plan for, number one, what the North Koreans say they have, and they say they have it, and what they demonstrate what they might have when they show it to us.  And, from those indications, we have to show that we’re properly postured to protect not only our homeland, which includes all of our territories and the state of Hawaii, where I happen to be, but also that we’re able to provide defense and security for our allies and our key partners in the region," he explained.

    Locklear said he believes North Korea continues to make progress in both their nuclear and missile capability and that they continue to want to do that.

    Strained relations

    The admiral also expressed concern that the global community is becoming numb to the amount of testing the North does.

    "The long-term concern about North Korea is that, every time they do something that the international community has told them not to do, particularly as it relates to missile technology or nuclear technology, you have to assume that it is a step forward in technology.  Otherwise, they probably wouldn’t be doing it.  The concern I have is that it becomes, over and over again you see it, and you become somewhat numb to it, you become immune to it, and you start saying, ‘Well it’s not such a big deal.  They fired another missile last week.’  But, on the long-term view for North Korea, we have to continue to demand that they denuclearize, and they stop their missile program in the fashion they have it today.  Will they?  I don’t know," stated Locklear.

    He also expressed concern about strained relations between allies South Korea and Japan stemming from Tokyo’s militarist past and occupation of Korea in the first half of the 20th century.

    "The political issues between South Korea and Japan, and as their governments and people deal with them, do have an impact on our ability to conduct credible military-to-military engagement with each other.  It is very important that the Japanese and the South Koreans recognize that they have many mutual security interests that can be benefited by a bilateral and trilateral military-to-military cooperation," Locklear noted. "They have a common concern, a huge common concern with North Korea, and that we encourage them to work together to overcome their political difficulties so we can work to provide a better security environment in this region."

    He said both South Korea and Japan are not capable of full information-sharing in such areas as missile defense today because of restrictions of a political nature each has in place.  He said that degrades mutual security.

    The Pacific Forum’s Brad Glosserman sees little chance of improvement in bilateral relations. "It’s a very difficult slog [journey].  I mean, at this moment, the lack of political will at the highest levels of the Japanese and [South] Korean leadership is remarkable," he said. "You have fatigue in Japan, a sense that South Korea is more interested in focusing on the past and thinking about what Japan has done and could do in the future.  You have a political climate in South Korea that feels the Japanese are an untrustworthy partner."

    Glosserman said it is unfortunate that the populist rhetoric in South Korea over Japan’s new collective-defense posture announced July 1 is overblown.  He said the extent of Japan’s ability to take part in peacekeeping missions and aid regional allies, including the United States in the event of a crisis, is overblown and would actually improve the regional security climate.

    You May Like

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Forced Anal Testing Case to Appear Before Kenya Court

    Men challenge use of anal examinations to ‘prove homosexuality’; practice accomplishes nothing except to humiliate those subjected to them, according to Human Rights Watch

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora