The rocket launch pad at Tongchang-ri, Cholsan County, North Pyongan Province, North Korea (Source: GeoEye/AP)

The Unha-3 rocket launch pad at Tongchang-ri, Cholsan County, North Pyongan Province, North Korea (Source: GeoEye/AP)

As Pyongyang continues to push forward with plans to launch a satellite-deploying rocket in honor of the late Kim Il Sung’s 100th Birthday on April 15th, the United States has decided to suspend the previously agreed upon food aid to the country. Reports from the Tokyo Shimbun show that North Korea has begun fueling their rocket in preparation for the anticipated launch between April 12th and 16th, convincing the U.S. government that North Korea will continue forward with the launch.

This has left the U.S. with few options but to revoke their previous agreement to supply North Korea with food aid in exchange for a halt of DPRK nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Though North Korea’s claims that their satellite,  Kwangmyongsong-3 (광명성 3호), will be used for the peaceful purposes of  assessing forest distributions, natural resources, natural disasters, crops, and weather forecasts, the Unha-3 ( 은하3호) launch vehicle is strikingly similar to the DPRK’s Taepodong-2 (대포동 2호) ballistic missile, leading most experts to agree that this peaceful satellite launch will also advance the North Korean ballistic missile program.

According to North Korea Tech, a successfully placed DPRK satellite will have a north to south polar orbit, giving it several passes over North Korea on a daily basis. Should anyone worry that the DPRK satellite’s purposes be less than peaceful, it’s worth noting that the satellite will also pass over South Korea several times a day.

Seoul has threatened to shoot down the rocket if it ventures into their territory, but will likely find it flying over the East China Sea and out of the range of their PAC-2 patriot batteries, leaving little beyond a  potential preemptive strike by Hyunmoo-3 (현무-3) cruise missiles on the table.

Japan has also stated that they’ll attempt to knock out any rocket venturing into their territory. Fielding destroyers equipped with RIM-161 Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) systems, and moving the more modern MIM-104F (PAC-3) Patriot missile batteries to the Okinawan islands, they certainly stand a better chance of doing so.

With the predicted path of the DPRK rocket passing between the Okinawan islands of Miyako and Ishigaki, Tokyo will potentially get the chance to act on their strong words.

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Craig was born & raised in the United States, having recently returned there after over five years in Asia. He is currently pursuing further education in the realms of East Asian Studies and Politics. Craig is an avid fan of the political, economic, and military machinations occurring throughout the Asian continent and how those turning gears affect the rest of the world. He's currently covering both North and South Korea for Asia Security Watch, enjoying shedding light on to this far-too-often ignored slice of Asia.
Craig Scanlan has 82 post(s) on Asia Security Watch