Regime up to its old tricks again?With less than a month to go until South Korea’s presidential election, the reclusive regime north of the border is suspected of preparing for another long-range ballistic missile test.
U.S. and Korean intelligence sources claim a U.S. satellite spotted a container being moved from a weapons factory in Pyongyang early this month to an assembly plant at the missile launch base in Tongchang-ri, in the northwestern part of the country. The container is believed to be similar to one discovered in April, when North Korea test-launched a rocket.
Some suspect the regime is preparing to launch the missile around the time as the third attempted launch of the South Korean rocket Naro, which is scheduled for Thursday, and will claim its missile launch is part of a peaceful space program.
North Korea is known to have launched a total of three rockets - in 1998, 2009 and this April - all of which it claims were attempts to send satellites into orbit for peaceful purposes. But many believe they were disguised tests for long-range missiles.
Countries are free to launch rockets and satellite systems for peaceful space development, but it is hard to believe the North has such intentions given its record of developing nuclear weapons and missile programs despite international sanctions. Pyongyang is bound by resolutions 1718 and 1814 of the UN Security Council, which bar it from making rocket launches using ballistic missile technology.
Despite strong international protest, regime leader Kim Jong-un, who inherited the supreme leadership position from his late father Kim Jong-il, launched the Unha rocket in April, which disintegrated soon after it was fired. Many saw this as a ceremonial performance intended to draw attention to the military might of its new leader - before it went awry.
But the launch was a clear violation of a bilateral agreement between Pyongyang and Washington to freeze nuclear and missile tests in return for food aid. As a result, planned shipments of food were cancelled. Before it plans another missile stunt to gain attention, the North may wish to consider the consequences.