Saturday, April 4, 2009

North Korea Says Satellite Launch Coming 'Soon', But Winds May Cause Delay

Via Yahoo! News (AP) -

Strong winds may have done what a flurry of diplomacy couldn't: stop North Korea from launching a rocket the U.S. and other nations suspect is a cover for a long-range missile test, at least for a day.

Preparations for sending "an experimental communications satellite" into space were complete, North Korea's state-run media said Saturday morning, announcing: "The satellite will be launched soon."

But winds around the launch site in northeastern North Korea were "relatively strong," state radio announced at midday, possibly too high for the launch of the long-range Taepodong-2 rocket, analysts said.

"Apart from being very cautious, North Korea may have put off the launch purely due to weather factors such as strong winds," said Atsuhito Isozaki, an assistant professor of North Korean politics at Japan's Keio University.

With all eyes on the Musudan-ri launch pad — from missile interceptors in the waters, spy planes in the air and war rooms in Tokyo, Seoul and Washington — North Korea may also have wanted to keep the world guessing, said Koh Yu-hwan of Seoul's Dongguk University.

For weeks since North Korea announced its intention to send a satellite into space aboard a long-range rocket, diplomats from five nations seeking to disarm the rogue state of nuclear weapons have pressed the North to refrain from a launch they say violates a U.N. resolution barring Pyongyang from ballistic activity.

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