Images Show North Korea Close to Rocket Launch

Preparations further along than previously thought: experts

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 2, 2012 7:18 AM CDT | Updated Apr 2, 2012 7:43 AM CDT

(Newser) – Satellite images taken last week show that North Korea's preparations for a rocket launch this month are "more extensive … than previously understood," experts tell the AP. The images show a mobile radar trailer, necessary for any launch, as well as apparently empty fuel and oxidizer tanks, evidence that Pyongyang remains on schedule for a satellite launch that it has said will occur between April 12 and 16—a launch that Washington says is a cover for a long-range missile test.

North Korea says the satellite is intended to study crops and natural resources in the country, as well as to honor the April 15 centennial anniversary of founder Kim Il Sung's birth, but Washington says the true purpose is to test missiles that could someday be used for nuclear attacks, possibly on the US. Analysts are concerned a launch could have consequences similar to the last launch in 2009, when tensions ratcheted up. North Korea ultimately left nuclear disarmament talks and ran a second nuclear test weeks later.

This combination of the March 7, left, and March 28, right, 2012 satellite images provided by DigitalGlobe, shows the storage area at North Korea’s Tongchang-ri Launch site, on the nation’s west coast.   (AP Photo/DigitalGlobe)
This March 28, 2012 satellite file image provided by DigitalGlobe shows North Korea’s Tongchang-ri Launch Facility on the nation’s western coast.   (AP Photo/DigitalGlobe)
A parked trailer and dish antenna, top right, near the assembly building at North Korea’s Tongchang-ri Launch Facility, on the nation’s northwest coast.   (AP Photo/DigitalGlobe)
The rocket engine test stand, right, and instrumentation site, left, at North Korea’s Tongchang-ri Launch Facility on the nation’s northwest coast.   (AP Photo/DigitalGlobe)
North Korea’s Tongchang-ri Launch Facility, including the launch pad, center left, the rocket engine test stand, bottom, and the assembly building, top in green, on the nation’s northwest coast.   (AP Photo/DigitalGlobe)
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