Ready for blastoff: North Korea says rocket is set to go (+video)(Read article summary)
After weeks of preparation, as well as warnings and condemnation from the international community, North Korea is ready to launch a long-range rocket.
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North Korea announced today that it was ready to go ahead with a long-range rocket launch, making clear that it is moving forward with its plans in defiance of widespread condemnation from the international community, including Russia, and a plea for calm from neighbor and ally China.
Pyongyang insists that the rocket is merely launching a weather satellite and that it is within its sovereign rights to do so. The West believes the rocket launch is a thinly veiled ballistic missile test – a violation of United Nations sanctions meant to prevent North Korea from developing a missile capable of bearing a nuclear weapon.
Reuters reports that the launch will take place sometime between April 12 and 16, pegged to celebrations of the 100th birthday of deceased former leader Kim Il-sung, the grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-un.
"The launch of the Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite is the gift from our people to our great leader, comrade Kim Il-sung, on the occasion of his 100th birthday, so this cannot be a missile test," said Ryu Kum-chol, vice director of the space development department of the Korean Central Space Committee.
Regional airlines and ships are on alert, and Japan has deployed its anti-missile systems, vowing to shoot down the rocket if it crosses over its airspace as one did previously, Agence France-Presse reports from Pyongyang.
The Associated Press reported last week that the US has few options for punishment if North Korea goes ahead with the rocket launch. China would likely block any attempt to ratchet up sanctions via the UN Security Council out of fear of destabilizing its volatile neighbor.