North Korea says it has completed preparations to launch what it says is a satellite for monitoring agricultural and meteorological conditions — perhaps as soon as Thursday.
U.S. officials and their allies in the region say the launch isn't about putting a satellite into orbit, but rather about testing ballistic missile capabilities. The launch is scheduled for sometime between Thursday and Monday, depending on whether in the region, various media outlets reported.
According to The New York Times, South Korea and other Asian nations have directed their ships and airplanes to reroute in advance of the launch. The early stages of the rocket are expected to fall in the Yellow Sea, off South Korea's southwest coast, and in the South China Sea off the coast of the Philippines.
Even some North Korean supporters, like Russia, have criticized the North's space launch. The Russian RIA Novosti news agency quoted Alexander Lukashevich, a foreign ministry spokesman saying Russia considered North Korea’s plans “an example of ignoring decisions of the U.N. Security Council.”
In the United States, according to the Times, White House spokesman Jay Carney said a North Korean launch would likely lead the United States to cancel a planned food aid shipment.
"(We will) continue to do the things that we have been doing in the past to isolate and pressure North Korea," he added.
In addition, some 20 flights from 12 airlines, including major U.S. carrier Delta Airlines, will be rerouted to avoid the path of the rocket. The other airlines involved, according to the Associated Press, are Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines, Korean Airlines and Garuda Indonesia. The route modifications were expected to add about 30 minutes to the flight times.
Japan and South Korea are on alert for the rocket to travel toward their territory, with Japanese officials promising to shoot down and missiles or debris that is headed toward Japan.