After examining new imagery of the launch site in northwestern North Korea, Charles Vick, Senior Technical & Space Policy Analyst for Globalsecurity.org, tells Fox News “North Korea is building up to a flight test of this next space launch.”
He goes on to say he thinks “the launch could be scheduled for some time in December or January.”
He downplays the argument that winter weather could preclude a launch. He says the site is “built to military requirements for all weather operations” going on to say it could be “covered with tarps for environmental control.”
Still, he favors a launch in December rather than January.
“A launch much into January is indeed questionable due to weather constraints both on the ground and at altitude," he says.
He does think there will be advance word. For the last launch attempt in April, North Korea registered with international agencies to warn of stages falling into the sea a few weeks in advance.
“Proper warnings are to be expected which has been their past practice,” Vick says.
From a political standpoint, there are arguments for a launch by the government of the new and still not tested leader Kim Jong-un. Neighbor and arch-enemy South Korea has been attempting its own launch of a multi-stage rocket. The last scheduled (and now delayed) launch date was Nov. 29. No new launch date has been set. National elections in South Korea are set for Dec. 19. Dec. 17 is the first anniversary of the death of Kim Jong-un’s father and former leader Kim Jong -il.
“Another launch attempt would be consistent with their political objectives and the long term commitments they’ve made to the program,” Seoul-based Asia Director for the International Crisis Group Daniel Pinkston tells Fox News.
And North Korea expert Andrei Lankov tells Fox News from Seoul, “it seems that Pyongyang is moving towards a harder line so we should expect a launch.”
Another bit of timing is the re-election of President Obama and the start of a new term in office.
“I have been expecting a missile test to get the Obama administration’s attention,” Peter Beck of the Asia Society tells Fox News.
Still others argue against an imminent launch saying that its not confirmed the problems experienced in the last failed effort have been resolved.
There is even the argument that all of the activity at the launch site is a “bluff.”
Joel Witt of the North Korea web site “38 North” tells Fox News he thinks that’s unlikely: “It’s hard for me to believe they would go to all this trouble.”
New satellite imagery is expected in the coming days.