BBC says North Korea says “soon”

N Korea ‘ready for rocket launch’

Satellite image of the North Korean launch pad at the Musudan-ri base in Hwadae  (11/03/2009)

The launch pad on the north-east coast has been picked up on satellite images

Preparations in North Korea for a satellite launch are complete and lift-off will take place “soon”, state media have reported.

A rocket was ready to lift an experimental communications satellite from a base on the country’s east coast, state news agency KCNA said.

Pyongyang’s neighbours suspect the launch is a cover for a missile test and have urged it not to go ahead.

Correspondents say it remains unclear when exactly the launch will be.

North Korea has told international organisations it will carry out the launch between 4 and 8 April, during the hours of 1100 to 1600 (0200 to 0700 GMT).

 

Observers say North Korea is very likely to stick to this commitment, firing the rocket at the first sign of good weather conditions during the given times.

Monitoring equipment had been set up at the launch pad, indicating the rocket could be fired within hours, South Korean news agency Yonhap quoted officials as saying.

South Korea said it had convened a meeting of a special task-force, while security chiefs in Japan were said to be on stand-by. The US, Japan and South Korea have deployed warships with radar to seas off North Korea to monitor the launch.

Japan’s government at one point said that North Korea was believed to have launched a rocket, but later retracted the statement saying the information was incorrect.

‘Stern response’

“Preparations for launching Kwangmyongsong-2, an experimental communications satellite, by carrier rocket Unha-2 have been completed at the satellite launching ground in the east coastal area of the DPRK (North Korea),” KCNA said.

“The satellite will be launched soon,” it added.

An undated photo of North Korean missile test

In recent days satellite images have shown activity at the Musudan-ri site and the rocket positioned upright on the launch pad.

North Korea says it is pursuing peaceful space development, but its neighbours believe it could be planning to test a new long-range weapon.

They suspect the launch is a cover for a test of the Taepodong-2 ballistic missile, which could put parts of the US within reach of the communist state.

Washington, Seoul and Tokyo have all criticised the launch plan, which would violate UN resolutions.

Earlier this week, US President Barack Obama and his South Korean counterpart Lee Myung-bak said a “stern, united response” would follow any rocket launch by North Korea.

Japan, meanwhile, has said it will shoot down the rocket if it misfires and endangers Japanese territory. It has sent two destroyers equipped with missile interceptor technology into the Sea of Japan (East Sea).

North Korea’s military has threatened immediate retaliation if “even the slightest effort” is made to intercept its rocket.

The secretive country first test-fired a Taepodong-2 missile in July 2006. The missile failed shortly after launch and crashed into the sea.

Three months later it carried out a nuclear test. Talks between North Korea and five other nations – China, Russia, South Korean, the US and Japan – on an aid-for-disarmament deal are currently stalled.

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Kim Jong-il Bunkers Down

He hasn’t been seen since the last release of images from the Propaganda Department’s Photoshop Division. Ahead of the launch, he’s nowhere to be seen.

North Korea Threatens Stronger Measures

Although South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has ruled out a military response when North Korea launches its satellite carrying ICBM later this week or next, the North has reinforced the indignation it showed when it turned down America’s free food by threatening “stronger measures” should South Korea, the US, and Japan take the world historical step of referring their actions to the UN security council. It is being suggested that the North’s stronger measure might be a second testing of a nuclear device, although not the same one as in the first test –that was partially destroyed in 2006. Thus the peninsula will be facing a cyclical action and response pattern for years to come: missile test-sanctions-nuclear test-sanctions- missile test-sanctions-nuclear test-sanctions. This is the best possible scenario for the South. Given the North’s limited capability, it will have unilaterally disarmed within about five years.

They must look this way to the North, too.

Latest

Robert Gates has hinted that although the expected missile launch is imminent, neither America nor Japan will intercept.

According to reports from Japan, North Korea is simultaneously preparing to launch a medium range missile.

Apparently, the precise launch date will depend on the weather at the coastal launch site of Musudanri and come anytime after North and South Korea’s world cup qualifier in Seoul on Wednesday.

America’s special representative on North Korea Stephen Bosworth says he wants to meet Kim Jong-Il.

In-a-State-of-War Creep

A bonus by-product of the missile launch for North Korea is the militarisation of the  Japanese mainland. Patriot missile batteries are being set up around Tokyo and residents have been advised there is no need to panic. Japan now gets to feel a little bit of what it has felt like to live in South Korea these past 56 years. It will delight Pyongyang that they have officially become an international threat with this first-step response, and horrify ordinary Japanese that they might now have to contemplate, like South Koreans have to daily,  the unlikely but always close at hand threat of suicidal North Korean mini-sub commandos bobbing up surreptitiously after dark on Japan’s shores.

A Hostile Act in an Ongoing War

The Korean war is technically not over. A peace treaty was never signed.  The proxy economic war was over decades ago. So the North has only one arena in which to compete. It must look tougher.

It is the unemployed bodybuilder who, as needs must, developed his own home made creatine and started to spend longer and longer in the gym, always going the roundabout way home so that he can walk past the broad gravel drive of his rich but estranged brother and stare at him with increasing menace as he gets home each day, returning, yes,  a little more prosperous, but the creases in those worry lines caused by his psychopathic sibling’s glower daily more evident to his concerned family as he steps into the living room.

This metaphor was brought to you by Kim Jong-il, who, dragged up with his father’s mentality out of the thirties, the forties, and the fifties, declaimed on the occasion of his recent birthday, “We will surely win!”

Where is Japan’s Territorial Sky?

Presumably right above it. But after the 1998 launch of a Taepodong II (which failed to deposit in the heavens the small satellite it was nominally transporting up there), the Nodong Sinmun took Japan to task over the technicalities of its claim to have been territorially infringed.  

It is true that our artificial satellite flew over Japan’s territorial sky and passed through the airspace of the Tsugaru Strait. However, it cannot be a “threat to Japan’s security” or a “violation of its sovereign right”.

Let us ask the Japanese authorities: Don’t you know what the territorial sky is, or an international strait, or the legal position of the airspace above such international straits?

As for the territorial sky, its height has not yet been internationally defined and the only general standard – that the height of the territorial sky should be extended only to a height appropriate to guarantee the security of each country – applies. So, over the past 100 years, the height of the territorial sky has been internationally recognized between 40 to 50 km. . . . Recently, however, some argued that the height of the territorial sky should be about 100 km, on the grounds that the flight altitude of ballistic missiles launched by many countries nowadays is generally within 100 km and that some of the satellites orbit more or less 100 km from the earth. As a result, nowadays, about 100 km is regarded as the height of territorial sky. No nation claims higher territorial sky, nor is it recognized. When it flew over the Japanese archipelago, our artificial satellite’s flying altitude was over 200 km.

Now, Japan alleges this as a violation of its territorial sky. What an absurd allegation it is!

It goes on:

The Japanese authorities say that we had not informed them of our plan to launch a satellite in advance and, therefore, this constitutes a “violation of international law.” Japan has launched dozens of satellites so far and has it ever informed us of any single one? If we are to follow Japan’s logic, it has violated international law dozens of times. The Japanese authorities claim to be reasonable and they have never mentioned this. Why? Nothing could be more absurd. Japan must remember this clearly: no regulations in general international law, or any space laws for that matter, mention the requirement for countries that launch satellite to make information available in advance

They sound almost reasonable when they put it like that.