North Korea is believed to have finished assembling a rocket on the launch pad on Wednesday, making a launch early next week the likeliest scenario. The North announced it will launch the rocket between Dec. 10 and 22 to put a satellite into orbit.
A South Korean military source said satellite images suggest that the assembly of the first, second and third-stage boosters at the launch pad in Tongchang-ri, North Pyongan Province was completed on Wednesday morning. Workers were reportedly seen leaving the launch pad.
The next steps are a technical check and injecting the rocket with the fuel/oxidizer propellant combination. Since the propellant is highly volatile and corrosive, the rocket should be launched one to three days after it has been injected.
According to the Korea Meteorological Administration's weekly weather forecast for North Pyongan Province, skies will be partly cloudy on Monday and Tuesday and cloudy on Wednesday. Neither snow nor rain is expected.
The North Korean rocket has an estimated range of 10,000 km, which would allow an intercontinental ballistic missile made with the same technology to reach Los Angeles.
It has now spent an estimated US$2.8-3.2 billion making weapons of mass destruction -- $1.1-1.5 billion on nuclear weapons development and $1.74 billion on missile development, the South Korean government speculates. With that amount of money, the regime could have bought 9.33-10.66 million tons of corn at recent trading prices, feeding 24 million North Koreans for 31 to 36 months.