North Korea is technically prohibited from nuclear and ballistic missile activity by U.N. Security Council resolutions which were passed after a similar launch in 2009. Their efforts to build nuclear weapons along with a series of ballistic missile tests despite warnings from the international community have constantly fuelled regional tension.
While Pyongyang’s missile programme has been restricted over the last few decades, it is widely understood that research and development of progressive systems continues. Should the country push through with their plans, they will be in clear violation of those resolutions and will definitely undermine recent diplomatic progress.
However, a North Korean spokesman maintains that the country has a right to a peaceful space programme. He insists that the Kwangmyongsong-3, as the proposed satellite is called, is an opportunity for “putting the country’s technology of space use for peaceful purposes on a higher stage.”
The North Korean government has invited international space experts and journalists to witness the launch and has also given notice to the International Maritime Organization, providing details of where the anticipated drop zones would be for the two-stage rocket.
Still, the Japanese government is set to spare no concessions as they passed a resolution condemning the planned launch. Naoki Tanaka, the Japanese defence minister, has already ordered the deployment of an anti-missile PAC3 defence system in Okinawa along with Aegis warships ahead of the planned launch.
Tanaka also stated that the defence system will stand ready to destroy the projectile should it present a risk to Japan.
Japan’s involvement in ballistic missile defence started in 1999, when North Korea tested its long-range Taep’o-dong 1 ballistic missile, which flew over Japan and landed into the Pacific Ocean. Since then, Japan has authorised its Defence Force to shoot down enemy warheads, and has worked closely with the U.S. in the development of Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) systems.
A crisis management taskforce has also already been set up to closely monitor the situation in co-operation with the U.S. and South Korea. Osamu Fujimura, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, told a news conference Friday:
"We believe a launch would be a move to interfere with our effort toward a dialogue, and we strongly urge North Korea not to carry out a satellite launch," he said.
The rocket's path will reportedly go over the South Korean islands of Baegryeong-do, Daecheong-do and Socheong-do, and then across open water until it passes between Japan's Miyako and Ishigaki islands before heading further south. The expected drop zones of the two-stage rocket are off the western coast of South Korea and to the east of Luzon Island in the Philippines.
The launch has been announced to take place between 7 a.m. and noon, local time, in any of the days between 12 and 16 April.