After weeks of bluster, North Korea is finally going to fire a satellite into polar orbit next week. At least that's what it says its going to do. In the launch slated for April 11, the U.S . and its allies will be standing by for an intelligence bonanza as the country puts on a show for the world to see. No one really knows exactly what Pyongyang is capable of or which of its neighbors it's willing to anger the most, but many of those questions will be answered next week. Here are the major ones:
Is this is a disguise missile test? North Korea insists that its putting on a peaceful satellite launch, but the U.S. sees this as a disguised ballistic missile test. The AP's Eric Talmadge says we'll be able to answer that question without a shadow of a doubt next week. "Experts can easily estimate from photographs the rocket stages' mass ratio -- a measure of their efficiency -- and that will give a quick indication of whether the rocket is designed primarily to be a space vehicle launcher or long-range missile."
Did Iran help North Korea? Israeli media have reported that North Korea's test is actually a pretext for an Iranian missile launch. While those reports are disputed, there is the presumption that Iran has aided North Korea's efforts. In a report yesterday in Haaretz, Israel's leading expert on ballistic missiles, Tal Inbar, said "if the two programs are not brothers, they are first-cousins." Haaretz's Anshel Pfeffer goes on to note "the Sohae launch-pad is almost totally identical to an Iranian installation in Semnan, which yet to be used." Depending on the craft used and the technology observed, analysts will get a better idea on the level of cooperation between Iran and North Korea. As Inbar noted, Tehran's rockets systems are much more sophisticated than Korea's.