Journalists

Journalists visit to the Unha-3 (Milky Way 3) rocket as it sits on a launch pad during a guided media tour by North Korean authorities at the West Sea Satellite Launch Site in Cholsan. Reuters/KCNA

The count down has begun for North Korea's controversial rocket launch, which is scheduled to take place between April 12 and 16, any time between 7 a.m. to noon local time. North Korea has made it clear that it would not budge to the international pressure to halt the launch.

Here is a glimpse into the specifics of Pyongyang's controversial satellite rocket launch and what impact it will have on the Korean peninsula.

What Exactly Is The North Launching?

North Korea has said that it is launching an earth observation satellite to be used for weather forecasts and for assessing forest distributions, natural resources and natural disasters. It will broadcast remote data in the UHF band and video output in the X-band, according to a North Korea Tech report. The satellite named Kwangmyongsong-3, meaning shining star, will be placed in the same orbit as the earlier two satellites in the Kwangmyongsong series.

The last similar launch by North Korea was in the month of April, exactly three years ago. The first satellite launch too was in the same month, in 1998. Though North Korea claims its two earlier launches in the same series, in 1998 and 2009, were successful, foreign experts say they had found no proof for the same.

Launch Vehicle: The launch vehicle will be Unha-3 rocket, which uses the same technology as the North's long range ballistic missile Taepodong-2. This makes the experts believe that the North's peaceful satellite launch can be used for non-peaceful purposes as well.

Trajectory:  If successfully placed, the satellite will have north-to-south polar orbit and it will pass over North and South Korea several times a day, according to the North Korea Tech report. The trajectory of the rocket will be towards south over the Baegryeong-do and Daecheong-do islands of South Korea and over the Japan's Miyako and Ishigaki islands.

Launch Pad: The satellite will be launched from a new launch pad - Sohae Satellite Launching Station in Tongchang-ri village in the north-west province of the country.

Controversy: North Korea announced in mid-March that it would launch a satellite mounted on a long-range rocket to mark the birth centenary of its late founder Kim II-Sung, which falls in the second week of April.

The move came just weeks after a deal with the US in which Pyongyang agreed to halt its nuclear program, and put in place a moratorium on long-range missiles in exchange for food aid. The announcement of the launch drew strong reactions from the US and other western countries which have termed it as a blatant violation of the 2009 UN resolution, which stipulates that North Korea should not conduct any further nuclear test or any launch using the ballistic missile technology.

North Korea claims its satellite launch is meant for peaceful scientific purposes, but western nations believe it to be a cover for its clandestine nuclear weaponry program, as the technology used for the rocket launch is similar to that of long range ballistic missile. The west alleges that Pyongyang is trying to test its long range missile technology in the guise of a satellite launch.

International Reactions: World leaders have urged Pyongyang to halt the planned satellite launch. The US and South Korea were the first to react against the rocket launch plan, followed by Japan and other countries. The US said earlier last week that it would scrap the food aid deal if the North presses on with the rocket launch. Japan and South Korea have warned the North that they would shoot down the rocket if it violates their territories.

Japan and South Korea also have deployed interceptor missiles and defense battalions in standby mode to shoot down the rocket in case it violates their air space.

Several other countries also have condemned the move. China, the closest ally of North Korea, has also raised concern about the rocket launch; however, the international community is still persuading China to use its influence to make North Korea back off.

North's Reaction: North Korea has so far been adamant about the launch, stating that it is not violating the UN resolutions and that it has every right to pursue technology for peaceful purposes. It is already in the final stages of the launching process. The rocket and satellite have been moved to the launch pad and fueled up.

North Korea has blamed the US and other countries for over-reacting to its peaceful scientific program and has threatened to retaliate if any country attempts to shoot down the rocket. North Korean official news agency KCNA has said Japan and the US are exploiting the opportunity to escalate their military presence in the Korean peninsula.

North Korea had granted foreign journalists access to the launch pad on Sunday, in an attempt to allay international criticism against it. According to media reports the rocket is about 100-feet long and is painted white, red and blue. The journalists were allowed to see the three stages of Unha rocket, the launch pad and the working satellite.

What Impact: If Pyongyang goes ahead with the rocket launch, no matter whether it is for peaceful purpose or for military advancements, the first casualty will be the food aid deal with the US. As the US has already said it will suspend the food aid if the launch happens, it will be the impoverished North's civilian population that will bear the brunt.

The launch, if successful, will further escalate tensions in the Korean peninsula and increase the distrust among both the Koreas, as South Korea has reasons to worry if its enemy's satellite starts roaming above their territory with roving camera eyes.

A successful launch would give more headaches to the West as that would mean North Korea has perfected their long-range ballistic missile technology. Moreover, that would encourage the North to further its aid bargain with the West and also to continue with their weaponry advancement programs.

If the launch fails, the US may still withhold the food aid and may impose further sanctions, but will be relieved by the fact that the North's missile technology is still in a crude stage.