Chinese news outlet Huanqiu has today quoted nameless sources from the South Korean military as stating that intelligence confirms a long range rocket will be launched by North Korea between December and January. The news follows a torrent of speculation surrounding satellite imagery released by DigitalGlobe which allegedly reveal increased activity at North Korea’s West Sea rocket launch site.
An ROK military source reported by Huanqiu suggests that a North Korean rocket will be moved from a mountainous Pyongyang factory to the Dongchang launch pad before the end of the month. Huanqiu also speculates that in accordance with the level of activity shown on the satellite photos, a launch could happen within as little as 3 weeks.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ spokesperson Hong Lei was asked for comment on the development by Huanqiu and stated that Beijing would be monitoring the situation with an aim to maintain stability on the Korean Peninsula and work in accordance with all parties involved for their “mutual benefit”.
The DigitalGlobe imagery and leaks from both South Korean and Japanese intelligence come just one week after think-tank 38 North issued a report about probable North Korean rocket testing that may have occurred this summer. If any launch was to go ahead within the suggested three week time frame, then it could have a dramatic effect on looming South Korean Presidential elections.
But in contrast to the flurry of rumor, at a press briefing today in Washington DC State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland remained guarded, saying “”I’m obviously not going to comment on intelligence issues.”
While these rumors are likely setting off worry in some quarters, when it comes to North Korea there has been a tendency for imminent predictions of nuclear and missile tests to be proven wrong. Time will tell if this case is any different.