North Korea has made an unprecedented move, allowing Western journalists to take photos of an up-to-date ballistic missile due for launch this week to put a weather satellite in orbit. Alarmed Japan and South Korea are preparing to shoot it down.
The three-stage Unha-3 rocket is going to be launched starting from April 12 to 16 from a new Sohae launch pad in woodland some 50 kilometers from the border with China.
The Unha-3 appears to be the upgraded version of the rocket fired by North Korea in 2009. It is the same liquid-fueled three-stage ballistic missile, with a hitting range capability this time greater than 6,700 kilometers. The previous North Korean rocket launched in 2009 went down after a 3,800 kilometer flight – which was enough to fly over Japan. The payload capability could be of up to one tonne, be it a nuclear warhead or a scientific satellite.