North Korea has begun fuelling a rocket for a launch seen by the West as a pretext for testing ballistic missile technology banned by the UN. The United States has suspended its food aid plan to the country.
The country had begun inserting liquid fuel into the rocket, a diplomatic source told Japanese newspaper the Tokyo Shimbun.
"The launch is coming closer. The possibility is high that the launch date will be set for April 12 or 13," the Japanese newspaper source said. He also confirmed earlier reports that the rocket had been moved to a launch pad in Tongchang-ri in the country's far northwest.
The provider of high resolution satellite imagery DigitalGlobe took a photo on Wednesday showing what appears to be trucks near the North Korean launch pad, while a crane arm on the tower has been swung wide.
"It does confirm a higher level of activity within the overall facility and significant activity at the launch pad specifically," Joseph Bermudez, a senior analyst for DigitalGlobe explained. "This activity appears consistent with preparations for a satellite launch," he added.
However, the commercial vendor of space imagery and geospatial content reported they could see no sign the booster or first stage of the rocket had been moved to the pad. South Korea military who also keep an eye anxiously on their northern neighbor’s military activities admitted they have no information on whether the rocket was being fuelled, but earlier they reported that parts of the rocket were transported to the launch pad.
Meanwhile, the United States has suspended its food aid plan to North Korea, as Pyongyang refuses to cancel its rocket launch scheduled for mid-April.
Washington claims that the scheduled launch, which North Korea says has nothing to do with nuclear tests, is breaking a deal made between the two countries last month.
"This planned launch is highly provocative because it manifests North Korea's desire to test and expand its long-range missile capability," said Peter Lavoy, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Affairs.
Pyongyang says that the launch's purposes are absolutely peaceful, as the rocket will just take a satellite into orbit.
According to the agreement signed by the two countries in February, the US provides food aid to North Korea if it partially freezes its nuclear activities and agrees to a missile test moratorium.
The US had previously warned that that any rocket launch would jeopardize the food aid program.
Rumors were confirmed recently of cannibalism in North Korea because of the serious nature of the starvation going on there, James Corbett, editor of The Corbett Report told RT.
The people there are very much dependent on food aid provided by US, he believes.
“Any idea that NK can function as some sort of isolated community in the international stage is just absolute pie in the sky thinking.”
The food aid cut is a clear example of the US shooting itself in the foot if it’s trying to change the North Korean society power structure through a move like this. James Corbett is sure that the more the people are relient on Pyongyang for the food aid, the more centralized control authorities have over the country.
“Ultimately the only effect this will have is that it will make the people of North Korea even more dependent on Pyongyang and the central power it holds over the food supply,” he explained.