U.S. moves anti-missile ships into place ahead of North Korea's rocket launch

North Korea, missile
A North Korean soldier stands in front of the country's Unha-3 rocket, at a launching site in Tongchang-ri, North Korea, April 8, 2012.
AP Photo/David Guttenfelder

(CBS News) North Korea's new leader, Kim Jong-Un, appears ready to continue the family tradition of provoking enemies, including the U.S.

The isolated country is getting ready to launch a new rocket that could reach the United States, and there are indications that it is preparing for another nuclear test.

CBS News correspondent David Martin reports that the world's most secretive society is making no secret of its plans to fire off this rocket and launch a satellite into space. Not just North Korean media but foreign reporters as well were taken on a tour of the launch site, shown the satellite, and given a look inside mission control.

The launch is expected to take place sometime later this week, despite objections from the U.S. and countries in the region that it violates a ban on the testing of ballistic missile technology.

To hear the North Koreans tell it, the satellite launch is a peaceful use of space timed to mark the 100th birthday of their country's founding father, Kim Il-Sung.

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Its trajectory is expected to take it due south in order to put the satellite into polar orbit. But U.S. officials say that is just an excuse to test a three stage rocket that would be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead far enough to reach the Hawaiian islands and parts of Alaska.

The U.S. is sending a giant seaborne radar to the test area, long with a half dozen other anti-missile ships. The Japanese are deploying Patriot anti-missile batteries. And airlines are rescheduling flights to avoid the area.

The most likely U.S. response will be to cancel 240,000 tons of food aid that would help North Korea feed its undernourished people.

It might not end there. Activity has been spotted at North Korea's nuclear test site, which means the North could be preparing for another underground nuclear explosion.

  • David Martin

    David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent.