The North Koreans are preparing to test-launch a ballistic missile within the next few weeks, according to satellite analysis of North Korea’s Shoae (West Sea) Satellite Launch Station. North Korea says it is deploying harmless communications satellites. Most of the rest of the world disagrees, saying these launches are thinly disguised ballistic missile tests. DigitalGlobe, a satellite imaging company, reported: “Given the observed level of activity noted of a new tent, trucks, people and numerous portable fuel/oxidizer tanks, should North Korea desire, it could possibly conduct its fifth satellite launch event during the next three weeks.”
Restless Pyongyang, always eager for a confrontation with its enemies abroad, is also under fire for providing weapons to Syria’s Butcher Assad. The WSJ reports:
U.S. officials believe North Korea has remained one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s closest partners, helping develop Damascus’s missile and chemical-weapons programs even as a civil war has engulfed the Arab country. U.N. inspectors believe Damascus and Pyongyang secretly built a nuclear reactor in eastern Syria before Israeli jets destroyed the facility in 2007.
Arab officials said North Korea has continued to seek to fly weapons components into Syria. The Iraqi government said it blocked in September a North Korean plane from using its airspace to fly a suspected arms shipment into Syria.
Pyongyang is furious with UN interference in its missile launches and the lucrative weapons trade with Syria. When new sanctions were imposed on North Korea in April, after a missile test failed, the North Korean state run news agency had this to say:
The US . . . after hatching all sorts of dastardly tricks to prevent the peaceful nature of the DPRK’s satellite launch from being confirmed objectively and persistently terming it a long-range missile launch, imposed upon the UNSC its brigandish demand that the DPRK should not be allowed to launch a satellite for peaceful purposes. . . . Nothing can stand in the way of the DPRK’s space development for peaceful purposes.
U.S. ties with Burma also threaten a major export market for North Korean weapons:
Ships or planes bound for Myanmar and Syria and loaded with weapons-related equipment originating in North Korea have been diverted or blocked in recent months, U.S., Asian and Arab officials say. The United Nations has imposed sanctions against Pyongyang’s weapons trade.
The anniversary of Kim Jong-il’s death is approaching. Tradition suggests that the event will be celebrated with much fanfare. Perhaps a missile test will do. Kim Jong-un has had a difficult first year in power, analysts say. Celebrating his father with a big party and an appropriate gesture of defiance toward the UN would be a welcome triumph for the Onion‘s newly crowned Sexiest Man Alive.
There’s another group who will welcome any new sign of North Korean obstreperousness. A growing group of political and business leaders in Japan are moving toward a higher profile and stronger military capability as the reality of China’s growing assertiveness becomes more apparent. North Korea missile tests send alarm waves through Japan’s population, and will strengthen the hand of politicians looking to beef up defense.