Sometime between April 4 and 8, North Korea will launch what their government has referred to as a “communications satellite.”
The launch was first announced on Feb. 24, and has since sparked international concern. Both Japanese and South Korean and intelligence sources suggest that the “satellite” may actually be a long-range missile. North Korea made similar claims in 1998, when a Taepdong-1 missile was launched.
Although a long-range missile could strike North America or Japan, it is likely that a missile launch will only be a test. Even so, there is the potential for damage. Japan is concerned that debris from the missile could fall within its borders, and both the US and Japan have expressed concerns about the possibility of a weapons malfunction. Japan has deployed vessels close to its coast to intercept any falling debris. There are no plans to intercept the missile, as North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il has stated that any American or Japanese interference would be an “act of war.”
Tensions in the area have mounted, as the possible dates for launch grow closer. The situation has been exacerbated by the recent indictment of two US journalists. Laura Ling and Euna Lee of Al Gore’s Current TV are under investigation for illegally crossing China’s border into North Korea, where they were filming a documentary about refugees.
North Korea has also become agitated over cooperative military drills between US and South Korean soldiers.
Uncertainty about the ramifications of the launch and the fate of the two US journalists persists. The Western Carolinian will continue coverage of this situation as it unfolds.