North Korea has announced that it is preparing to launch a long range rocket carrying the Earth-observation satellite Unha-3. The launch is scheduled to take place on April 14 or 16, to celebrate ruler Kim il-Sung birthday.
“They appear to have the rocket technology to be able to reach out 1,000 kilometers,” said Brian Weeden, a technical adviser with the Secure World Foundation, “Whether or not they can accurately target is a completely different story.” According to North Korean officials, the country launched two experimental satellites in 1998 and 2009. Although North Korea declared both launches successful, neither one was ever tracked by a foreign country or space agency.
For the 2009 launch, the North Korean government released pre-launch notifications and announced splash-down zones for the spent stages for the first time, a critical step in the direction of responsible international relations. However, much of the world remains concerned that a launch capabilities of this kind could have military applications for weaponization, particularly of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – North Korea for short – is a communist state, founded in 1948 by Kim Il-Sung. After his death in 1994, his son Kim Jong-Un took over the role of Supreme Leader of North Korea. North Korea had recently brokered a deal with the U.S. to stop long-range launches in exchange for food supplies. That deal may be imperiled by this latest announcement.