Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun reported today that the U.S. government has reported signs of preparation for a North Korean long-range ballistic missile launch to the governments of South Korea and Japan. The two countries have allegedly put in place security measures to deal with the possibility of an impending launch.
The U.S. apparently captured signs of movement earlier this month, noting missile components being transfered from a factory in the Saneum district of Pyongyang to North Korea’s newest missile launch facility at Dongchan-ri in North Pyongan Province. The shape and style of the cargo seen in the satellite photos was apparently the same as that used for another long-range ballistic missile launch in April this year.
If the launch were to proceed on the same timeline as the April launch, North Korea would be ready to launch the latest missile at the end of November; however, North Korean launches are based on political calculus as much as practical, and there is no reason to assume that this will be the case. Equally, in April North Korea actually adhered to international norms by informing the International Maritime Organization (IMO) of what it called a “satellite launch” one month in advance.
Many analysts also see it as unlikely that North Korea would launch a missile at this particular time, with the South Korean presidential election in December this year, North Korea-Japan talks underway and President Barack Obama not yet officially into his second term.