Amidst accusations that it may be preparing for a nuclear test North Korea has readied its Unha-3 rocket for launch. The launch, intended to put a satellite into orbit, is scheduled for between 12th and 16th April.
The launch of the rocket has raised controversy as many critics of the North Korean regime fear that it is really a long-range missile test masquerading as a space shot cites BBC News, ABS CBN News and the Huffington Post in their respective reports.
South Korean officials believe this is the case. They say satellite images suggest that North Korea is preparing for a third nuclear test (the first two took place in 2006 and 2009). They also point to a large amount of recent activity at the Punggye-ri site (where the previous two nuclear tests were carried out) as their primary source for concluding that may be the case. One unnamed South Korean official stated:
"Recent satellite images led us to conclude the North has been secretly digging a new underground tunnel in the nuclear test site... besides two others where the previous tests were conducted."
This satellite launch, which has been planned for the centennial of Kim Il-sungs birth has already been previously met with sharp criticism from Washington which accuses North Korea of reneging on a previous deal made only last February. Under that agreement, Pyongyang agreed to a partial halt to nuclear activities and missile tests in exchange for U.S. food aid.
Foreign journalists have been allowed into North Korea to see the final preparations for the rocket's launch. North Korean says it is intended to be used to send back images from space to assist with weather forecasting and surveys of North Korea's natural resources.
Pyongyang has stated that this launch is for "peaceful purposes". It's neighbours are clearly unsure and aren't taking any chances. Earlier today, Japan deployed missile batteries in Tokyo that would shoot down any missile to enter their air space. Previously, a North Korean missile had entered Japanese air space in 2009.