Recent U.S. satellite images shared with the Japanese government indicate that North Korea may be preparing to conduct another long-range missile launch in the near future. The images show the movement of similar equipment to what was used for a previous launch in April of this year. While the Pyongyang government claimed it was launching a satellite into orbit at the time, no such announcement have been made recently and analysts say a missile launch could take place in as little as three weeks.
Osamu Fujimura, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, stated on Monday that they will be closely observing North Korea’s activities and are increasing their efforts to gather information about any potential missile launches. The test that took place in April was ultimately a failure, as the rocket crashed into the ocean near the Philippines. However, the event was ultimately an embarrassment for the government which resulted in heavy criticism, as the public was already well-informed of the launch by media and the internet long before the Ministry of Defense stated a “flying object” was seen coming out of North Korean airspace.
North Korea’s last missile test resulted in outcry from Japan, which then called on the U.N. to impose stricter sanctions on the communist nation in an effort to persuade it to abandon its nuclear weapons development. Should Pyongyang be planning another test, it would should surely have a negative impact on the recently launched bilateral talks between the Japanese and North Korean governments. The two countries have already met twice in recent weeks to discuss issues of importance, most notably the abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korean spies, but more meetings are still to be arranged.