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North hints at ‘satellite’ launch during winter

Oct 07,2015
North Korea said Tuesday it had the capabilities to a put a satellite into orbit during the harsh winter season, raising suspicion that it might proceed to fire a long-range rocket after the Oct. 10 anniversary of its ruling party.

The remarks by the North, carried by its weekly propaganda publication Tongil Shinbo, came amid heightened expectations that the Communist country would opt against firing a long-range rocket on the 70th anniversary of the founding of its Workers’ Party, which falls Saturday.

Noting its launch in December 2012 of the Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite, North Korea said a satellite would be put into space “at a time and location chosen by the Workers’ Party.”

North Korea claims it is within its sovereign rights to put a satellite into orbit for scientific purposes. However, the global community sees it merely as a guise to test its long-range rocket capabilities, in violation of UN resolutions.

The launch of a long-range rocket would have undoubtedly drawn additional United Nations sanctions, further isolating the North’s economy.

Pyongyang’s latest remark regarding the satellite came on the same day an official at the Ministry of Unification assessed that Pyongyang was unlikely to launch a long-range rocket due to a lack of preparation.

The official added, however, that Pyongyang was expected to put on a large-scale military parade aimed at impressing audiences with its “visual display.”

“The government has not detected signs of launch preparations such as the transport of a rocket body to a launch pad,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, adding that it normally takes two to four weeks to complete launch preparations once a rocket is transported to a launch facility.

Satellite imagery taken by 38 North on Sept. 27 showed no signs of increased activity at the launch facility in Tongchang-ri, supporting the speculation that Pyongyang would not launch a rocket.

The website, operated by the U.S.-Korea Institute at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins, specializes in missile and nuclear activities in the North.

The ministry official declined to answer questions over estimated costs for Pyongyang to organize such as a mass public spectacle for the anniversary.

“Pyongyang is expected to organize the event in a festive way, without declaring a new national strategy or changing its policy directive,” said the official, who noted that the young Kim was likely trying to rework his public image by emphasizing the economic achievements under his leadership as a leader and putting more attention on welfare.

New military weapons could also be unveiled during the military parade, over which Kim will preside.

“It’s possible that the North could use the parade as an opportunity for a show of force by unveiling new weapons,” the official said.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]


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