North Korea's 'terrifying golfball of death'

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North Korea rocket launch
The rocket launch from North Korea has been widely condemned by the international community Photo:

All eyes on North Korea once again. A country that is extremely secretive but is also very good at drawing lots of attention.

Today the North Korean vice director of the space development department announced that the rocket, the Unha 3, which he says will be used to put a satellite into orbit, is ready to launch.

The window for the launch is still the 12th to the 16th, they are hoping for a clearish sky but the forecast is cloudy for the next few days. What we can expect for the rest of the week is stormy diplomatic weather.

North Korea rocket launch
The launch is scheduled in between the 12th and 16th April

Today China said it is concerned with the development of the situation.

Japan is threatening to shoot down the rocket if it comes close to it's territory even though North Korea says the proposed flightpath avoids neighbouring countries. South Korea, as you might expect, is furious.

So North Korea is between a rocket and a hard place. However, is the missile/satellite launch a real threat?

One space expert I have spoken to says that the small lifting power of rockets used to put satellites into space means a warhead would be very small, some sceptics have dubbed the North Korea nuclear missile threat as the "the terrifying golfball of death".

Of course you could put something much lighter than a tonne of nuclear weapon into a rocket and ruin a lot of people's days. A toxin for example or some radioactive substance.

Can the North Korean's hit the US mainland? Yes if you believe the White House which says, with auxiliary boosters, long range missiles in the North Korean armoury can hit the US.

North Korea rocket launch
The White House claim that long range missiles from North Korea could hit the US Credit: REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

They can certainly hit US targets in South Korea. The South Korean capital is in artillery range of the North.

Put 'North South Korea on brink of war' in a search engine, you get more than 66 million results, as the rocket is launched, tensions will rise once again.