N. Korea To Launch Earth Observation Satellite In April
North Korea said Unha-3 rocket carrying Kwangmyongsong-3 will blast off from its satellite launching station in North Pyongan Province between April 12 and 16, the Korean Committee for Space Technology said in Pyongyang.
The launch of a satellite built by indigenous technology is designed "to mark the 100th birth anniversary of President Kim Il-sung," the country's founder and the late grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-un, the committee said.
The launch date is set around the late founder's April 15 birthday, one of the most important holidays in the isolated country. The North, one of the poorest countries in the world, has vowed to usher in a prosperous and powerful nation by the milestone anniversary.
The committee said a safe flight orbit has been chosen so that carrier rocket debris to be generated during the flight would not have any impact on neighboring countries.
North Korea "will strictly abide by relevant international regulations and usage concerning the launch of scientific and technological satellites for peaceful purposes and ensure maximum transparency," the North's committee said in an English-language statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.
The committee claimed that the launch will greatly encourage North Koreans "in the building of a thriving nation and will offer an important occasion of putting the country's technology of space use for peaceful purposes on a higher stage."
The South Korean government did not make any immediate comment.
The North's move could be aimed at boosting its negotiating power with the U.S. after their recent nuclear deal, Kim Yong-hyun, a North Korea expert at Dongguk University in Seoul.
"The North could employ brinkmanship, as it wants to take the lead in future negotiations with the U.S.," Kim said.
The communist country has a track record of making commitments in return for economic concessions and then abandoning talks and reneging on its commitments.
Kim said the North could argue that its satellite launch would not be in violation of its moratorium on missile tests, a position that is expected to be rejected by the U.S.
"The borderline is ambiguous," Kim said, referring to technological similarity between a rocket launch and a long-range missile test.
In 2009, the North claimed it successfully put a satellite into orbit as part of a peaceful space program. However, South Korea and the United States said at the time that the launch was meant to test North Korea's ballistic missile technology and that no object entered orbit.
The launch drew U.N. condemnation, prompting North Korea to quit the six-nation talks aimed at ending its nuclear weapons programs. The North conducted a second nuclear test in May 2009, drawing tightened U.N. sanctions.
The recent nuclear deal between Pyongyang and Washington raised hope that the disarmament talks could be resumed. The talks also involve South Korea, China, Japan and Russia.
The upcoming liftoff comes as the North is set to hold a key political conference. The KCNA reported in February that the Workers' Party conference in mid-April is designed to "to glorify the sacred revolutionary life and feats" of its late leader Kim Jong-il and "rallied close" around his son and successor, Kim Jong-un.
The launch is meant to show to North Koreans that the young North Korean leader is in charge of his country, said Kim Yong-hyun.
On April 11, South Korea is scheduled to hold parliamentary elections.
Source: 16 March 2012 - DAILY AIR FORCE NEWS
Photo: North Korea said Unha-3 rocket carrying Kwangmyongsong-3 (Photo by dailyairforce.com)