Snow, Not International Condemnation, May Delay North Korea Missile Launch

It looks like inclement weather — not widespread suspicion and disapproval — is what will be delaying the second satellite launch attempt since Kim Jong Un took power last year.

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GeoEye via North Korea Tech and 38 North / AP

This Dec. 4, 2012 satellite image shows snow covering the Sohae launching station in Tongchang-ri, North Korea, including the path where trailers would be used to move the rocket stages from the assembly building to the launch pad.

It turns out North Korea’s latest rocket launch attempt may not be carried out according to schedule. Oh, wonderful! you may be thinking, Maybe this isn’t happening since it’s banned under U.N. Security Council resolutions. And also because of heavy, ongoing international condemnation.

Alas, no. It looks like inclement weather — not widespread suspicion and disapproval — is what will be delaying the second satellite launch attempt since Kim Jong Un took power last year. South Korean media reports had indicated that Pyongyang had mounted all three stages of its rocket by Wednesday, but now it appears that snow likely prevented the completion of the job, the Associated Press reports. Still, “delaying” does not mean “canceling,” and North Korea could still be ready for liftoff within the week — as early as Monday.

(POLL: Should Kim Jong Un be TIME’s Person of the Year 2012?)

GeoEye satellite images taken earlier this week revealed heavy snow surrounding the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, located on the country’s west coast, near its border with China. The analysis of these images has provided a rare glimpse into the Hermit Kingdom’s secretive launch attempt, which, according to the Associated Press, has received particular attention given its timing. South Korea and Japan both hold elections this month, and in the U.S., Barack Obama will begin his second term in January. The U.N., Washington and Seoul have all expressed concern that this launch could be a cover for testing a missile meant to target the U.S.

North Korea, however, has defended its right to pursue a peaceful, scientific satellite launch sometime in the near future. And it’s already going to be a big month for the authoritarian nation: December 17th marks the first anniversary of the death of the late Dear Leader, Kim Jong Il, and thus of his son Kim Jong Un’s succession. This year also marks the centennial of the birth of Kim Il Sung, the founder of the modern North Korean state and the grandfather of its current ruler.

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