North Korea missile launch looks imminent

Friday, March 27, 2009

North Korea may be planning to launch one of its Taepodong-2 missiles in the next few days, having announced earlier that it intends to put a communications satellite into space.

U.S. intelligence officials announced Wednesday that a missile had been rolled out to a pad at its Musudan launch facility. It is unknown whether the missile is in fact carrying a satellite, or if a warhead may be in its place. The missile is reported to be capable of carrying either. Only after a post-launch analysis will officials be able to determine what the missile may have been carrying.

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commented that were North Korea to launch a missile, they would be in violation of a United Nations Security Council resolution, and that the U.S. would voice its opposition with the U.N. if North Korea went through with the plan.

Fears abound over the possibility of the missile being used in warfare, with the Taepodong-2 rumored to be able to reach the U.S. states of Alaska and Hawaii.

Japan has warned that it will shoot down any such missiles launched by North Korea with its U.S.-made Patriot anti-missile defense system.

South Korea's response was less specific, with chief nuclear envoy Wi Sung-lac saying "If North Korea launches [a] rocket, certain countermeasures are unavoidable."

The previous launch of a Taepodong-2 missile was in 2006, which ended in failure after it went out of control and was destroyed.