Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

Saturday launch likely for North Korea rocket, says analysts

Several countries across the Asia-Pacific remain on alert as North Korea prepares for a rocket launch seen by many as a ballistic missile test.

BEIJING // Several countries across the Asia-Pacific remain on alert as North Korea prepares for a rocket launch seen by many as a ballistic missile test.

Analysts say take-off is most likely on Saturday morning and officials in several countries have been ready to respond amid concerns over the risk of falling debris from the launch.

South Korea and the Philippines were among the countries that ordered aeroplanes to divert away from the rocket's likely flight path. The launch of the Unha-3 rocket, said by North Korea to be carrying a satellite that will monitor natural resources, is seen by many countries as a ballistic missile test that would breach UN Security Council resolutions.

Japan's lower house of parliament yesterday unanimously passed a resolution calling for the launch's cancellation and the prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, told journalists his country wanted "to seek their self-restraint until the last-minute". He held discussions with a team managing Japan's response to the planned launch. Japan has prepared missile defence equipment and pledged to intercept debris that could land on its territory.

In southern Japan, residents have been told to remain indoors once the launch happens.

"We want to be fully prepared for any possible contingency," Mr Noda said.

The western launch site North Korea is using for the first time means the rocket will be farther from Japan than during previous launches.

The rocket's first stage is expected to land in the Yellow Sea between China and South Korea, with the second stage likely to fall into the sea north-east of the Philippines. Manila has told shipping to avoid this area.

North Korea is launching the rocket to mark Sunday's 100th anniversary of the birth of the country's founder, Kim Il-sung, whose grandson Kim Jong-un became leader in December on the death of Kim Jong-il. The 20-something Kim Jong-un took on further titles this week to consolidate his fledgling leadership.

With fuelling of the rocket starting on Wednesday, tomorrow is the most likely launch day, according to Brian Bridges, a political analyst at Hong Kong's Lingnan University who has written several books on the Koreas.

"Once they've fuelled the rocket, you cannot leave the fuel in for too long without there being technical problems. They will probably launch on Saturday morning because they can announce it on the Saturday evening news as that's the eve of the anniversary," he said.

The United States, Russia, South Korea and other countries have condemned the launch plans, which have led to the cancellation of American proposals to send food aid to the impoverished north.

With overseas monitoring agencies having failed to detect North Korean satellites in the past, despite previous claims of successful launches, reports have questioned whether Unha-3 is even carrying a functional satellite.

North Korea is believed to have enough fissile material to produce multiple nuclear warheads, but is thought to lack the technology to produce long-range nuclear missiles.


Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greets supporters after his arrival in Zahedan, the regional capital of Sistan and Baluchestan province on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. During Mr Rouhani's two-day visit, he will tour several other cities and hold meetings with local scholars and entrepreneurs. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

On the road with Hassan Rouhani

Iran's president is touring some of Iran's most underdeveloped provinces. Foreign correspondent Yeganeh Salehi is traveling with him.

 The Doha-based Youssef Al Qaradawi speaks to the crowd as he leads Friday prayers in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt in February, 2011. The outspoken pro-Muslim Brotherhood imam has been critical of the UAE’s policies toward Islamist groups, adding to friction between Qatar and other GCC states. Khalil Hamra / AP Photo

Brotherhood imam skips Doha sermon, but more needed for GCC to reconcile

That Youssef Al Qaradawi did not speak raises hopes that the spat involving Qatar and the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain might be slowly moving towards a resolution.

 Twitter photo of  Abdel Fattah El Sisi on the campaign trail on March 30. Photo courtesy-Twitter/@SisiCampaign

El Sisi rides a bicycle, kicks off social media storm

The photos and video created a huge buzz across social media networks, possibly a marker of a new era for Egypt.

 An Afghan election commission worker carries a ballot box at a vote counting centre in Jalalabad on April 6. A roadside bomb hit a truck carrying full ballot boxes in northern Afghanistan, killing three people a day after the country voted for a successor to President Hamid Karzai. Eight boxes of votes were destroyed in the blast, which came as the three leading candidates voiced concerns about possible fraud. Noorullah Shirzada / AFP Photo

Two pressing questions for Afghanistan’s future president

Once in office, the next Afghan president must move fast to address important questions that will decide the immediate future of the country.

 Friday is UN Mine Awareness Day and Omer Hassan, who does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan, is doing all he can to teach people about the dangers posed by landmines. Louise Redvers for The National

A landmine nearly ended Omer’s life but he now works to end the threat of mines in Iraq

Omer Hassan does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan and only has to show people his mangled leg to underscore the danger of mines. With the world marking UN Mine Awareness Day on Friday, his work is as important as ever as Iraq is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world.

 Supporters of Turkey's ruling AKP cheer as they follow the election's results in front of the party's headquarters in Ankara on March 30. Adem Altan/ AFP Photo

Erdogan critic fears retaliation if he returns to Turkey

Emre Uslu is a staunch critic of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Now, with a mass crackdown on opposition expected, he is unsure when he can return home.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National