A U.S. think tank reported that satellite images showed what appeared to be fueling activity at a North Korea launch site — activity consistent with what has been observed one to two weeks prior to a rocket launch.
This would also fall within the timetable that Pyongyang gave U.N. authorities, saying that the country would be launching an earth observation satellite sometime between Feb. 8 and Feb. 25
The report said the images indicated no significant changes at the launch pad itself, where work platforms on the gantry towers remained folded forward. It said coverings obscured whether a space-launch vehicle was present on the pad.
“Although there is no activity indicating an imminent launch, the gantry tower and launch pad complex appear to be capable of conducting a launch within the announced launch window,” it said.
North Korea says it has a sovereign right to pursue a space program. But it is barred under U.N. Security Council resolutions from using ballistic missile technology.
Coming so soon after North Korea’s fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6, a rocket launch would raise concern that it plans to fit nuclear warheads on its missiles, giving it the capability to strike South Korea, Japan and possibly the U.S. West Coast.
The United States has deployed missile defense systems that will work with the Japanese and South Korean militaries to track the launch.
Have a tip we should know? firstname.lastname@example.org