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N. Korean Rocket Could Be Launched Today

Posted April. 04, 2009 09:35,   


With North Korea’s rocket launch believed to be imminent, tension is rising on the Korean Peninsula.

South Korea, the United States and Japan are scrambling to prepare countermeasures, while the North has focused on internal propaganda to maximize the effect of its rocket launch.

▽ Launch imminent

Major foreign media outlets including the Associated Press and Reuters said Pyongyang will likely launch the long-range rocket as early as today, citing sources in Washington.

A senior U.S. intelligence official said, “North Korea is taking steps to launch the rocket Saturday.”

A ranking official with the U.S. Defense Department also said, “The rocket is being fueled.”

Another arms reduction expert said, “Since rocket fuel gets instantly corroded, a rocket loaded with fuel should be blasted off within several days.”

Quoting professor Theodore Postol of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Washington Post said an analysis of satellite photos shows a device loaded on the rocket is similar to a satellite, and is estimated to weigh 330 to 880 pounds (150–400 kilograms).

Radio Free Asia also said a senior U.S. State Department official hinted at the possibility that once the rocket is launched, energy sanctions could be imposed on North Korea. The official said Washington will release a statement urging neighboring countries like South Korea and Japan not to be stirred if the North launches the rocket this weekend.

Commenting on the launch, Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso told reporters in London Thursday, “The rocket will fly over Japan Saturday.”

▽ Seoul on high alert

Seoul went into emergency mode yesterday and devised countermeasures based on a number of scenarios from the results of the North’s rocket launch. The Unification Ministry issued a recommendation to civilians to refrain from visiting the North between today and Wednesday, the period when Pyongyang said it will launch the rocket, and for a time thereafter.

Ministry vice spokesman Lee Jong-joo said, “We have asked private organizations to use caution and visit North Korea only when inevitable.”

The Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry in Seoul also strived to coordinate measures with parties to the six-way talks, including the United States, Japan, China and Russia, to prepare for the situation after the launch through diplomatic channels.

The ministry decided to hold today a meeting of a North Korean missile task force chaired by by Wi Sung-lac, South Korea’s chief nuclear envoy, to conduct a final review on countermeasures.

The Defense Ministry also decided to put its task force to counter North Korea’s rocket launch on alert, and place military intelligence and operation commands on standby around the clock.

The South Korean military has also beefed up surveillance in areas where the North Korea might incite provocations, including the Northern Limit Line in the Yellow Sea and the Military Demarcation Line.

▽ NK focuses on internal solidarity

North Korea has put its citizens on alert and emphasized its motto of a “powerful country.” State-run media repeated an “important report” issued by the North Korean military’s top brass warning of a counterattack even for a trivial projectile interception by neighboring countries, including Japan.

The North Korean daily Rodong Shinmun said, “The dawn of a powerful country has begun with a magnificent sunrise.”

Daily NK, a South Korean online newspaper specializing in North Korean affairs, also said yesterday that North Korean brass issued Wednesday afternoon a urgent telegraph ordering all military units and the ruling Workers’ Party’s military organizations to a “maintain a wartime operational stance,” citing sources in Pyongyang.