UPDATE [6:48 pm CT]: Amongst today's various warnings from governments that see North Korea for the rogue state that it is this statement from Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman:
But he says if there is a launch without any advance notice from the government in Pyongyang, there will be no basis on which to assume it is only a test.
"'Test' would, to me, indicate that you are doing something like an exercise," he said. "You are testing a missile. 'Test' has intent behind it, as opposed to launching a missile. When you are launching a missile, to me, you [others] do not know what the intent of the launch is, you [others] do not know if the launch is intended to be a test or something else."
The Pentagon spokesman hinted to reporters that if North Korea launches a missile the United States might use its new missile defense system.
"The United States does have a limited missile defense system. I will not get into or discuss any specific alert status or capabilities," added Whitman.
It is reported that the missile has been completely fueled, that it is difficult to "unfuel" such a missile, and that the launch would probably be planned for daylight and clear weather.
It is currently 8:48 a.m. in North Korea. The weather at Kimchaek, a city near the reported launch site, is partly cloudy and 71°F.
With a little memory, we can discover perhaps why North Korea is threatening to launch a long-range ballistic missile. It would be the first such launch since 1999. The United States and Japan are moving to stop the launch, but as of this moment the missile is fueled and ready, and the launch merely delayed merely by weather.
That North Korea would threaten such a launch should not surprise us, and I would hope that at least a few people in the Bush administration had the foresight to see the North Korean actions coming. 2006 looks like it will be an especially hard year in North Korea. According to this well-sourced report at Human Rights Watch, North Korea is facing a famine for the first time since, well the late 1990's, when Jimmy Carter arranged the perpetuation of a terror state by negotiating a food deal to benefit North Korea. Time Asia also reports on the threatened famine.
It would have been better for everybody if North Korea had been allowed to collapse under its own weight. That it is a state that has no right to exist is undeniable. That we let it fester because we fear how its collapse might hurt the people of North Korea, or because we fear war and prefer peace, or because we wish to appease the interests of our allies in South Korea and Japan, is a testament to our decency. Our patience with the North Koreans also testifies to our stupidity. In the last decade, the leadership of the North has only grown more deranged and desperate, the people more oppressed, and since North Korea is likely a nuclear state, our compassion could possibly kill several million of us.