North Korea May Be Nearing Rocket Launch

North Korea May Be Nearing Rocket LaunchNorth Korea May Be Nearing Rocket Launch

Satellite images taken this week of North Korea’s Sohae rocket launch site show apparent fueling activity seen in the past shortly before a rocket launch, a US think-tank said, as US government officials signaled that a launch could occur as early as Monday.

North Korea has told UN agencies it will launch a rocket carrying what it called an earth observation satellite sometime between Feb. 8 and Feb. 25, triggering international opposition from governments that see it as a long-range missile test, Reuters reported.

On Friday, US government sources said US intelligence agencies believed North Korea could be ready by the US Super Bowl kickoff on Sunday, which will be Monday in Korea. Activity at the site was consistent with a launch in the timeframe given by Pyongyang, US officials said.

US Pacific Command said it was closely monitoring the situation and had many missile defense assets in the region that would provide “a robust defense”.

Commercial satellite images from Wednesday and Thursday show the arrival of tanker trucks at the launch pad, said Washington-based 38 North, a North Korea-monitoring project. It said the presence of the trucks likely indicated the filling of tanks within bunkers at the site rather than a rocket itself.

“In the past, such activity has occurred one to two weeks prior to a launch event and would be consistent with North Korea’s announced launch window,” the group said.

On Friday, US President Barack Obama spoke by telephone with President Xi Jinping of China, North Korea’s main ally and neighbor, and agreed that a North Korean launch would represent a “provocative and destabilizing action,” the White House said.

Obama and Xi also said they would coordinate efforts to respond to North Korea’s nuclear test last month and said they would not accept North Korea as a nuclear weapon state.

Washington and Beijing have appeared divided over how to respond to North Korea, with the United States urging tougher sanctions and China stressing the need for dialogue.