A successful launch would mean North Korea could develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking the U.S. mainland within two to three years, said Chong Chol-Ho, a weapons of mass destruction expert at the private Sejong Institute near Seoul.
Six-nation negotiations to offer North Korea much-needed aid in exchange for nuclear disarmament have been stalled since early 2009.
International pressure and the prospect of dialogue may be a factor in the delay, analysts in Seoul said.
China must have sent a ‘‘very strong’’ message calling for the North to cancel the launch plans, said analyst Baek Seung-joo of the South Korean state-run Korea Institute for Defense Analyses.
North Korea may also be holding off if the U.S., its longtime Korean War foe, actively engages Pyongyang in dialogue, said Koh Yu-hwan, a professor of North Korean studies at Seoul’s Dongguk University.
Associated Press writer Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo and Matthew Pennington in Washington contributed to this report.