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North Korea Threatens War if Rocket is Shot Down

The possible path of the N. Korean launch, passing over Japan. First stage will drop into the Sea of Japan (AGI)

The possible path of the N. Korean launch, passing over Japan. First stage will drop into the Sea of Japan (Video still courtesy of Analytical Graphics, Inc. www.agi.com)

Some time between April 4th-8th, North Korea will launch a communications satellite into orbit. Unsurprisingly there is huge scepticism being voiced by Japan, South Korea and the United States that the secretive military nation is in fact carrying out a test-launch of the Taepodong-2 ballistic missile system, mounting a “peaceful” satellite to disguise its real intention. If the world’s suspicions are correct, if successful, North Korea will have a means to deliver a possible nuclear strike as far as Hawaii or Alaska. Now the North Korean army has warned that if the launch is interfered with, they will attack “major targets” in Japan.

Oh dear, it sounds like it’s going to be a rough few days in the west Pacific

A visualization of fairing separation after N. Korean rocket clears the atmosphere (Video courtesy of Analytical Graphics, Inc. www.agi.com)

A visualization of fairing separation after N. Korean rocket clears the atmosphere (Video still courtesy of Analytical Graphics, Inc. www.agi.com)

North Korea’s neighbour, Japan, has warned that should the rocket start to fall toward the nation, they will attempt to intercept it using anti-missile Aegis destroyers at sea and Patriot guided-missile units on the land. This is what appears to have riled the North Koreans, prompting the Korean People’s Army (KPA) to issue a sabre-rattling statement saying, “If Japan recklessly ‘intercepts’ the DPRK’s (North’s) satellite for peaceful purposes, the KPA will mercilessly deal deadly blows not only at the already deployed intercepting means but at major targets.”

Unfortunately, North Korea has not proven itself to be a particularly “open” nation, so there is huge doubt that one of the nations in the “Axis of Evil” (a phrase coined by George W. Bush in his State of the Union Address on January 29, 2002) is simply deploying a peaceful satellite. N. Korea has long been developing chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, but any attempt by international inspectors to understand the scope of these claims have been unsuccessful. Also, previous rocket tests have provoked international outrage as they are seen as obvious attempts to intimidate neighbouring countries (principally Japan and South Korea) and demonstrated the nation is working on more sophisticated means to increase their military reach.

The satellite-carrying rocket will be directed to fly over Japan (Video courtesy of Analytical Graphics, Inc. www.agi.com)

The satellite-carrying rocket will be directed to fly over Japan (Video still courtesy of Analytical Graphics, Inc. www.agi.com)

Tensions are understandably high ahead of the launch, and some sources suggest that could be as early as Saturday (April 4th) as there are indications that fuelling activities are being carried out by Pyongyang. Spy satellite images appear to show there is indeed a satellite attached to the rocket, but the US and regional allies are under no illusions that such a launch would also test ballistic missile technology, violating the UN resolution passed in 2006 in response to the underground nuclear test and repeated missile launches. North Korea can expect severe treatment by the international community should this launch go ahead.

The US and regional allies will push for more sanctions will be put into place, further damaging international relations with North Korea. However, having signed an international space exploration treaty, North Korea appears to be hoping China and Russia will block any sanctions after launch, even though the launch directly violates the UN resolution. Russia has even urged North Korea’s neighbours not to take military action against the rocket launch.

Like most actions threatened by Pyongyang, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens, but this is certainly a volatile situation…

Source: Space War

Images courtesy of of Analytical Graphics, Inc. (www.agi.com), where detailed analysis and visualization of the N. Korean launch.


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Hello! My name is Ian O'Neill and I've been writing for the Universe Today since December 2007. I am a solar physics doctor, but my space interests are wide-ranging. Since becoming a science writer I have been drawn to the more extreme astrophysics concepts (like black hole dynamics), high energy physics (getting excited about the LHC!) and general space colonization efforts. I am also heavily involved with the Mars Homestead project (run by the Mars Foundation), an international organization to advance our settlement concepts on Mars. I also run my own space physics blog: Astroengine.com, be sure to check it out!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • IMSA12 April 6, 2009, 11:02 PM

    As others have posted here, Kim Jong Il and his regime specialize in making a lot of international noise, which prompt various negotiations, which prompt food and energy aid for North Korean citizens, which is stolen or resold by the government, which directs the aid to the army and military technology, which is utilized to create still more noise…

    This noise is problematic. Even if one of these rockets can only make it as far as downtown Tokyo, that’s far enough to touch off WW III (much more than anything Dub and his cohorts could gas up about Iraq, Iran, etc.). It wouldn’t take a functional atomic device; all that would be required is a dirty radioactive or biological bomb that would kill millions. No problem…right?

    North Korea is too much like that weird kid in school who nobody wanted to, or could, talk to (except a few others of his ilk). This weird kid has gotten himself a gun, and right now, he’s flashing it around to impress the other kids. He’ll be shooting, and killing, soon. He’s got nothing to lose.

  • star grazer April 7, 2009, 12:00 AM

    IMSA12 Says
    NK is very patient, this is what’s lacking in western countries. This weirdo country will do some sword rattlling, the western countries will start to make complaints and most likely give them more food to shutup. Then NK will just listen to what western nations are saying, and there again will be in-fighting with western nations what to do about NK then forget. NK will just wait, do somemore sword rattling, the western countries will do their usual complaints, then forget about NK. NK will do what it will do when and where they will do what they will do.
    Satillite intelligence, forget it, most of their
    soldiers do ‘manuvers’ underground, patiently digging more passageways, caverns, and thousands of pre-planned entry points inside of SK, underground.!!! The whole tunneling pattern moves south 1KM every 5 years, so NK is very patient. NK will do so rattle sabering some more then quiet again. NK will wait until the world is focused on a serious natural disaster like the Indonesian Tsunami or a meteor strike hitting a major city then invade from underground at thousands of exit points inside SK to disrupt the SK military logistics and destroy SK communications. I hope the SK military can hold NK because this ‘invasion’ will be such as the world has never seen before, mostlly from underground then from conventional frontal assault. This senario may not happen for 20 years,10 years or sooner, but, they will invade when the western countries tires of NK sword rattling and forgets about them to take care of a major natural disaster. Whatever NK show and tell missile launch with a dirty bomb will do will just make things more difficult for forces against NK. Unfortunately for the not-so patient western countries, there’s nothing we can legally do about it now.

  • Profound April 10, 2009, 11:25 PM

    In regards to Star Gazers account and prediction to militaristic actions by North Korea on South Korea, try this scenario on for size.

    North Korea will attack South Korea hard and fast, dumping and throwing everything they have at them. This will undoubtedly prompt attack from the United States, which will “blow the hell” out of North Korea. After three days of intense fighting on both sides, North Korea will surrender.

    Why you ask?

    What does the United States do every time, after every war, to any country we attack?


    In my honest opinion, North Korea will prompt then disengage after being mercilessly attacked. Then sit back and relax as the United States comes in and rebuilds their already appallingly impoverished country. Sure, after the reconstruction they will be under scrupulous watch by any and all countries involved, especially the United States.

    Small price to pay to be brought up from poverty.

  • jamie April 16, 2009, 6:35 PM

    Danngg im so freaked aabout nuclear weapons these days can’t live you know what??/ we should just throw 1billion missles to north korea and make im jung ill pissed off even if north korea throws a bomb to US they will probably throw it in california if they do their just dead

  • Phil Browder April 20, 2009, 9:55 PM

    I thought this was a site by ASTRONOMERS, for ASTRONOMERS?? I think this is supposed to be a forum to discuss astronomy, space, the joy of gazing into the heavens and wondering at the beauty of it all. There are sites for political discussions–how about we keep this site on topic?

    All the rhetoric and saber rattling I’ve read in the previous posts does nothing to promote the science, the profession and the hobby of astronomy, and certainly does not promote the worldwide “family” who want to put the news on the back burner for awhile.

    This site ( and the others like it) should be used by all to bridge our differences and come together in our mutual interest. Perhaps with more tolerance and attempts at understanding, there will be less need for the posturing and vitriol that seems to dominate the world stage.

    I realize there will be some who will accuse me of over simplifying or being naive–that is fine. I would just like to be able to read and learn about my hobby without the insults and ill will.