Wednesday, February 3, 2016

North Korea Plans Satellite Launch

 North Korean soldiers standing guard in front of the Unha-3 rocket in 2012. Photograph: Pedro Ugarte/AFP/Getty Images

North Korea said Tuesday that it plans to launch a satellite-carrying rocket as soon as next week, a move that could demonstrate potential progress in the nation’s long-running mission to develop a reliable intercontinental ballistic missile. The North gave notice of the launch — which it said would come between Feb. 8 and Feb. 25 — in an alert to the International Maritime Organization, a group responsible for maritime safety.

Pyongyang has said it has a sovereign right to pursue a space programme by launching rockets, although the United States and other governments worry that such launches are missile tests in disguise.

"We have received information from DPRK regarding the launch of earth observation satellite 'Kwangmyongsong' between 8-25 February," a spokeswoman for the International Maritime Organization, told Reuters.

In Washington, the State Department official in charge of East Asian affairs, Daniel Russel, said the purported launch plans “argue even more strongly” for tougher U.N. sanctions on the North.

The United States has led calls for additional measures by the U.N. Security Council in response to last month’s nuclear test, the North’s fourth since 2006. But North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, during his four years in power, has repeatedly signaled that he is willing to test weapons technology in defiance of the international community. Under Security Council resolutions, the North has long been prohibited from launching rockets using “ballistic missile technology.”

Russel said negotiations were "active" at the United Nations and that the United States and North Korea's main ally China "share the view that there needs to be consequences to North Korea for its defiance and for its threatening behaviours."

"Our diplomats are in deep discussion in New York about how to tighten sanctions, how to respond to violations," he said.

North Korea last launched a long-range rocket in December 2012, sending an object it described as a communications satellite into orbit.

Western and Asian experts have said that launch was part of an effort to build an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Over the past two years, North Korea has taken steps to upgrade its launch facility, extending the launch tower to accommodate higher-powered rockets. Models of a larger rocket, known as Unha-9, have been displayed at various events across the country.

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