North Korea could launch the satellite as soon as Sunday, as the Japanese and South Korean governments informed on Saturday. North Korean authorities had earlier told the International Maritime Organization (IMO) they were set to launch the rocket sometime between Feb. 8 and Feb. 25, but Japan and South Korea said the launch will take place between this Sunday and Feb. 14.
Pyongyang argues the rocket will carry an earth observation satellite, but world leaders believe it’s actually a long-range missile test. North Korean state media has not reported the change in the schedule but the government issued a notification to Airmen that the launch would take place this week, according to Japan and South Korean authorities. The IMO, a United Nations agency, also received a notice from North Korea of the move.
38 North, a North Korea-monitoring project based in Washington, said apparent fueling activity was seen this week in North Korea’s Sohae rocket launch site through satellite images. This activity is known for taking place shortly before a rocket launch.
The United Nations Security Council has passed several resolutions since 2006 to sanction the country for its ambitions regarding nuclear weapons. The organism has barred Pyongyang from launching ballistic missiles and pursuing nuclear tests. On the other hand, North Korea claims it has sovereign right to execute a space program to launch what it describes as an earth observation satellite.
The alarmingly impoverished country entered the year with plans that international governments have seen as provocations. On Jan. 6, North Korea carried out its fourth nuclear test, violating the U.N. Security Council’s resolutions. A rocket test this month would confirm fears about the nation putting a nuclear warhead on a missile that could even reach the west coast of the United States.
In December 2012, North Korea launched a long-range rocket into orbit, an object that supposedly was a communications satellite. After the news of the time frame change came out this weekend, U.S. government sources said on Friday they expected North Korea to be ready by the U.S. Super Bowl kickoff on Sunday, which will be Monday for them.
U.S. President Barack Obama spoke by telephone with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday. Beijing is Pyongyang’s main neighbor and ally, but the White House said the Chinese leader agreed that a North Korean launch would be considered as a “provocative and destabilizing action.”
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi rejected North Korea’s actions from Namibia on Friday and called on the U.N. Security Council to take stronger measures against Pyongyang.
Last month, after North Korea’s nuclear test, Obama and Xi emphasized the need for coordinated efforts to respond to North Korea’s provocations and said they would not accept it as a nuclear weapon state.
Nevertheless, both nations seem to disagree on how exactly to respond to North Korea’s actions. Washington urges tougher sanctions, while Beijing remarks the importance of dialogue.
As for Japanese reaction, Japanese authorities accelerated the deployment of two extra PAC-3 missile units, according to a Defense Ministry official.