- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 5, 2009

stop North Korea from launching a rocket that the United States 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. The winds were 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 to war rooms in Tokyo, Seoul and Washington - North Korea also may have wanted to keep the world guessing, said Koh Yu-hwan, a professor at 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 that they say would violate a U.N. resolution barring Pyongyang from ballistic activity.

North Korea insists that the launch is a peaceful move to develop its space program, and informed international aviation and maritime authorities that liftoff would take place sometime between April 4 and 8, between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.

But the United States, South Korea, Japan and others suspect that the launch is a guise for testing the regime’s long-range missile technology - a step toward eventually mounting a nuclear weapon on a missile capable of reaching Alaska and beyond.

President Obama said the launch would be “provocative” and would prompt the United States to “take appropriate steps to let North Korea know that it can’t threaten the safety and security of other countries with impunity.”

Even Chinese President Hu Jintao, North Korea’s chief ally, agreed during talks Friday with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak that the launch would “negatively affect peace and stability in Northeast Asia,” Mr. Lee’s office said.

U.N. Security Council diplomats say a draft resolution now circulating could reaffirm and tighten enforcement of the demands and sanctions of a resolution passed after North Korea conducted a nuclear test in 2006.

Japan deployed warships and missile interceptors off its northern coast.

North Korea has warned Japan that any attempt to intercept the satellite would mean war, and has threatened to shoot down American U-2 spy planes broaching its airspace.

Russia scrambled fighter jets to the Far East and put its troops there on alert, Sergei Roshcha, an aide to regional commander Lt. Gen. Valery Ivanov, told the Russian news agency Interfax.

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