Archive | March, 2012

Gas Up the KMS-3

30 Mar

Commemorative postage stamp of the Kwangmyo'ngso'ng-2/U'nha-2 launch in April 2009 (Photo: KCNA)

Technicians from the Korea Committee for Space Technology [KCST] continue preparations for the launch of the U’nha-3 carrier rocket which will reportedly carry payload, Kwangmyo’ngso’ng-3 [KMS-3] satellite.  38 North provides a detailed image analysis of the ongoing activities at Sohae Satellite Launching Station in Tongch’ang-ri, North P’yo’ngan Province:

Launch pad preparation seems to be progressing on schedule with fuel and oxidizer being delivered to the storage buildings for the Unha-3’s first stage. The next step will be the movement of the first stage to the pad—probably on March 30 or 31—followed by the second stage a day or two later. The third stage and payload will follow probably by April 2 or 3. Several other major events will take place after the Unha-3 is completely assembled. Unless some major setback occurs, the North Koreans will be able to launch during the declared launch window starting April 12, 2012.

Complementing the piece, image analysis expert Nick Hansen produced a timeline on U’nha-3′s launch preparations and the DPRK’s previous rocket (ICBM) launches:

It is no secret that North Korea plans to launch a satellite in a window between April 12-16, 2012 to coincide with the 100th birthday of Kim Il Sung, the founder of the country. It also plans to use an Unha-3 booster rocket launched from a new space port (Sohae Satellite Launching Station, a.k.a. Tongchang-dong Space Launch Center). The real secret is how North Korea plans to accomplish this task in the nearly three weeks left before the announced launch window. To provide some context on a probable timeline, this article briefly discusses the observed activities leading up to the Unha launch on July 4, 2006 and the Unha-2 launch on April 5, 2009, both from its old Tonghae Test Center.

Commercial imagery and open source reporting has shown that the launch campaigns of both 2006 and 2009 from Tonghae took about 2.25 months. Therefore, if the North Koreans are following anything like their previous schedule, the new campaign should be well underway. Imagery as of March 29, 2012, indicates that preparations have indeed begun. If a launch is really planned, it can be assumed that the Unha-3 and the satellite Kwangmyongsong-3, identified as an earth resources mission, will soon be inside the assembly building.

AFP reports:

North Korea has begun fuelling a rocket for a launch that the West considers a missile test, a Japanese newspaper reported on Thursday, citing a source “close to the government” in Pyongyang.

“The launch is coming closer. The possibility is high that the launch date will be set for April 12 or 13,” the source said according to the Tokyo Shimbun in a report from Seoul.

It cited the source as saying that North Korea had begun injecting liquid fuel into the rocket.

The paper also said a diplomatic source had confirmed that North Korea has moved the rocket to a launch pad in Tongchang-ri in the country’s far northwest.

The report came after North Korea insisted Tuesday it would go ahead with what it says is a satellite launch, snubbing a call from US President Barack Obama to drop the plan and accusing him of a “confrontational mindset”.

DPRK media interviewed a deputy (vice) director of the KCST’s Space Development Department who provided a general explanation about the satellite, its equipment and the official motivation for the launch.  KCNA reports:

There were questions about the data of the working satellite to be launched on the occasion of the significant Day of the Sun and the visits by foreign experts and reporters.

Question: What is the mission of Kwangmyongsong-3, first working satellite in the DPRK?

Answer: Kwangmyongsong-3 as an earth observation satellite will assess the distribution of forests and natural resources of the DPRK, the level of natural disaster, the crop estimate, etc. and collect data necessary for weather forecast, natural resources prospecting and others.

Q: What is its capacity?

A: Kwangmyongsong-3 has video camera mounted on it and will send observation data including pictures to the General Satellite Control and Command Centre.

It weighs 100kg and will circle along the solar synchronous orbit at 500km high altitude. Its life is two years.

Q: The DPRK invited foreign experts and reporters to the satellite launch. What can they observe?

A: They will go to the Sohae Satellite Launching Station to witness carrier rocket Unha-3 on the launching pad and Kwangmyongsong-3. They will watch the preparation for the launch of the carrier rocket with satellite on it in the General Launch Command Centre. They will also visit the General Satellite Control and Command Centre in Pyongyang and see the satellite being launched in a relevant place.

We will organize special visits going beyond the international usage to show with transparency the peaceful, scientific and technological nature of the satellite.

The U’nha-3 is not the only missile being tested on the DPRK’s west coast this spring.  South Korean media reported that on Thursday (29 March) that two KN-01 anti-ship missiles were tested.  KBS World reports:

The official said Friday that the North launched two KN-01 surface-to-ship missiles with a range of 120 kilometers from North Pyongan Province.

The official said the missile tests are not considered to be related to the North’s plan to launch a long-range rocket next month and were apparently carried out to test the missiles’ capacities. However, the official added the tests could be interpreted as the North’s protest over the recent expansion of South Korean and U.S. war vessels deployed in the Yellow Sea.

North Korea test-fired three KN-02 surface-to-surface missiles in the East Sea earlier in January and test-fired two short-range missiles off its eastern coast on December 19th last year, the day Kim Jong-il’s death was announced.

Japan’s Self Defense Forces [SDF] have been ordered to shoot down any parts of the U’nha-3 which might impact Japanese territory.  Japan will also deploy surface-to-air missiles [SAM] as the launch approaches.  Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda was the only  international leader to explicitly remark on the U’nha/KMS-3 launch during the proceedings of the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul earlier this week.

Asahi Japan Watch reports:

Pyongyang says it is planning to launch an Earth observation satellite between April 12 and 16, prompting Japan to mobilize its forces ahead of the launch. It is strongly suspected that the launch is nothing but a ruse to test a long-range ballistic missile.

On March 28, an RC-135U reconnaissance plane, designed to collect electronic intelligence, arrived at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa Prefecture.

Surface-to-air Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missiles have already been deployed at Kadena on a permanent basis, and the Air SDF is continuing with preparations for the deployment of PAC-3 missiles in other locations around Japan. Actual deployment was to get under way from March 30.

The Maritime SDF will also deploy three Aegis-class destroyers to waters off Okinawa and in the Sea of Japan to track the rocket/missile.

The PAC-3 missiles will be deployed in three locations in the greater Tokyo metropolitan area as well as four locations in Okinawa, including the Miyakojima and Ishigakijima islands. The missiles are expected to be transported by sea from SDF bases in Tsu and Takashima, Shiga Prefecture, via Kure, Hiroshima Prefecture.

Because the North Korean missile is only expected to traverse the islands of Okinawa, there is thought to be a very low chance of any parts of it falling on Japanese territory.

Aegis-class destroyers successfully shot down ballistic missiles in three out of four tests by the MSDF. Two tests of PAC-3 missiles have also been successful.

Hideaki Kaneda, a former senior MSDF officer who is a director at the Okazaki Institute, said: “Japan has the ability to make an appropiate response against missiles similar in type to the Rodong (of North Korea).”

However, the PAC-3 missile only has a range of several dozens of kilometers for intercepting ballistic missiles. If the North Korean ballistic missile approaches Japanese airspace, it would likely herald some sort of malfunction.

Military analyst Kazuhisa Ogawa said: “If the missile starts to drop out of the sky due to a malfunction, its flight route would become unstable because of air resistance. That would make it much harder to shoot it down (with an interceptor missile).”

Another military commentator, Isaku Okabe, admitted the difficulty of shooting down a missile that had gone off course, but he said: “The route is over a large area of water, so there is a small chance that the missile will fall on land.”

Yanggang (Ryanggang) Provincial Party Secretary Kim Hui Taek (L)

Meanwhile, Daily NK citing sources in Yanggang Province, reports that Supreme People’s Assembly [SPA] deputies have been ordered to arrive in Pyongyang on or around 5 April, eight (8) days prior to the convocation of the 5th session (plenum; plenary meeting) of the 12th SPA on 13 April.  It is speculated in the article that the 4th Party Conference (Meeting of Party Representatives) might occur prior to the SPA, due to overlapping (dual) membership.  Given the scheduling of the SPA session and the projected dates of the U’nha-3 launch, the DPRK central leadership may be looking for a propulsive pretext to convene the party conference.

The unusually long eight day lead-in time appears to suggest that the 4th Chosun Workers’ Party Delegates’ Conference is going to occur sometime between the 5th and 12th, to be followed by the SPA on the 13th in order to allow all political formalities to be completed before the regime turns its attention to celebrating the 100th anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s birth on the 15th.

The exact schedule is a guessing game because although the Politburo revealed official plans to hold the 4th Delegates’ Conference “in mid-April” on February 20th, a precise date has still not been officially released.

A source from Hyesan in Yangkang Province revealed news of the order to assemble in conversation with Daily NK today, adding that “Nine people will depart from Hyesan by train on April 1st as SPA delegates, including Provincial Party Chief Secretary Kim Hi Taek, the principal of Kim Jong Suk College of Education and the low-level Party secretary from Hyesan Textile Factory.”

According to the source, “There has been no order handed down about the Delegates’ Conference, but since they have told delegates to assemble early for the SPA, the word on the street is that the Delegates’ Conference will come first.”

Many of the ‘lawmakers’ in the rubberstamp SPA are also likely to be Party delegates as well, meaning that holding the two events in very quick succession is logistically beneficial.

Delegates will travel on special trains laid on to transport people and freight on the behalf of the state. In the case of delegates from Hyesan, the train will depart from the border city before stopping at Kilju in North Hamkyung Province and passing through Kim Chaek, Simpo and Hamheung before stopping at Suncheon and Pyongsung in South Pyongan Province en route to the capital. If all goes according to plan, the journey should take 22 hours, though the April 1st departure date is a clear reflection of how power limitations can affect travel in rural North Korea.

In the meantime, Chosun Central News Agency and Rodong Shinmun have both been reporting on local conferences held to ‘elect’ delegates to the 4th Delegates’ Conference, though these are not competitive elections. So far, Kim Jong Eun has been officially adopted as a delegate by the Chosun People’s Army and the Party in South Pyongan Province and the capital, Pyongyang.

If the Supreme People’s Assembly does occur after the 4th Delegates’ Conference, Kim Jong Eun will first formally take power in the Party and then in the administrative sector, presumably becoming Chosun Workers’ Party chief secretary and chairman of the Central Military Committee before then becoming head of state.

Kim Jong Un Elected to Party Conference by Military

28 Mar

Members of the KPA Party Committee applaud during its party conference on 26 March 2012 at the 25 April House of Culture in Pyongyang. The party conference was convened to elect delegates (party representatives) to the 4th Korean Workers' Party Conference in the middle of April 2012. (Photo: KCNA)

The Korean People’s Army [KPA] party organization held its party conference on Monday (26 March) at the 25 April House of Culture.  During the proceedings, it nominated and elected Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) as a delegate (party representative) to the 4th Party Conference scheduled for an undetermined date in the middle of April.  KCNA reports:

Present there were delegates elected at the party organizations of the KPA units at all levels. The delegates paid silent tribute to leader Kim Jong Il. The presidium was elected there. The conference discussed the election of delegates to the WPK Conference.

Kim Jong Gak, first vice-director of the General Political Bureau of the KPA, made an address on electing Supreme Commander Kim Jong Un as a delegate to the WPK Conference.

The WPK Conference to be held in the significant year, the centenary of the birth of President Kim Il Sung and the 70th birth anniversary of Kim Jong Il, is a historic assembly powerfully demonstrating the revolutionary will of the WPK, the army and people of the DPRK to accomplish the songun revolutionary cause of juche under the leadership of Kim Jong Un generation after generation and is of weighty significance in ushering in a great heyday of the revolution and construction under the uplifted banner of songun, Kim Jong Gak noted, and continued: The revolutionary career and feats of Kim Jong Il who won victory after victory in the confrontation with imperialism, put the dignity of the DPRK on the highest level and laid an eternal foundation whereby Kim Il Sung’s nation can enjoy immense happiness generation after generation will always go down in the history of the country.

Led by Kim Jong Un, the WPK is now called the most militant, dynamic and iron-willed party, a revolutionary party strong in organization, unity and principle and a mother party truly serving the people, striking its roots deep into them.

It is the highest honor, the greatest event and the biggest fortune of the KPA, the pillar and main force of the songun revolution, to elect Kim Jong Un as a delegate to the WPK Conference at the current conference, reflecting the unanimous will and desire of all the service personnel.

The election of Kim Jong Un as a delegate to the WPK Conference is the service personnel’s manifestation of their absolute trust and ardent loyalty to him and a reflection of the requirements of the era for the victory of the revolutionary cause of juche and the cause of building a thriving nation which have entered a new stage development.

Noting that it is a solemn pledge made by the KPA before the era and the revolution to accomplish the cause of Kim Il Sung and the cause of Kim Jong Il with arms, Kim Jong Gak courteously proposed to elect Kim Jong Un, the heart and future of Kim Il Sung’s nation and Kim Jong Il’s Korea, as a delegate to the WPK Conference, representing the unanimous will and desire of all the service personnel.

The floor was taken by Ri Yong Ho, Kim Won Hong, Jong Myong Do and other delegates of the party organizations of the KPA units at all levels.

The speakers said that Kim Jong Un possessed of intense loyalty to Kim Jong Il, outstanding leadership ability, matchless pluck and grit and noble virtues as inborn disposition is the supreme representative of the WPK, a symbol of the dignity and glory of the country and the nation and an ever-victorious banner of the KPA and the Korean people.

They fully supported and approved the proposal on electing Kim Jong Un as a delegate to the WPK Conference.

The conference unanimously adopted a decision on electing Kim Jong Un, the supreme leader of the WPK, the state and the revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK as a delegate to the WPK Conference, reflecting the will and desire of all the service personnel.

The conference elected delegates to the WPK Conference.

During 2010, Kim Jong Il was one of the KPA’s delegates to the 3rd Party Conference.  His nomination was also proposed by VMar Kim Jong Gak (Kim Cho’ng-gak), which is part of VMar Kim’s public duties as head of the KPA General Political Department (Bureau).  Choson Ilbo has identified VMar Kim as one of the high command’s “death angels” who has supervised the terminations and demotions of dozens of KPA officers and security officials, some of whom have been executed.

VMar Kim Jong Gak (2nd R) nominated Kim Jong Un as one of the KPA's delegates to the 4th Party Conference in April 2012. VMar Kim, seen at a 25 March 2012 rally ending the 100-days of mourning Kim Jong Il's death, is allegedly leading a purge of senior and mid-level KPA officials with the assistance of the Ministry of State Security's Gen. U Tong Chuk (3rd R), in order to consolidate the authority of the country's new leadership

Memorial Rally Ends KJI Mourning Period

25 Mar

Kim Jong Un (2nd L) attends a 25 March national memorial rally in Pyongyang ending the country's 100-day mourning period for deceased supreme leader Kim Jong Il. Seen with him are Chief of the KPA General Staff VMar Ri Yong Ho (L), SPA Presidium President Kim Yong Nam (3rd L), his aunt and member of the Political Bureau Kim Kyong Hui (2nd R) and Political Bureau member Jon Pyong Ho (R) (Photo: KCNA-Yonhap)

People attend the memorial service to mark the 100th day since the death of Kim Jong Il, late top leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang on March 25, 2012. (Xinhua/Zhang Li)

DPRK state media reported on Sunday (25 March) that the 100-day mourning period for Kim Jong Il ended.  The country’s central leadership marked the occasion with two events.  Early on Sunday, Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) led a group of DPRK elites in paying their respects at Ku’msusan Memorial Palace where his grandfather, country founder and late DPRK President Kim Il Sung lies in state and where KJI will eventually lie in repose.  Later the same day, KJU and other DPRK leaders attended a national memorial rally for KJI as Kim Il Sung Square.

ITAR-TASS reports:

North Korean premier Choe Yong Rim, speaking on Sunday at a mass rally in the capital’s central square on the occasion of the 100 days since the death of the head of state, pointed to great services of Kim Jong-Il to the Korean nation.

He noted that the deceased leader turned North Korea “into a militarily strong country”, made an important contribution to the cause of reunification of the two parts of the Korean Peninsula. Besides, the premier continued, “Kim Jong-Il brilliantly settled the question on continuity of power”.

Choe also pointed to important measures, taken by the leader’s young son Kim Jong-Un, to immortalize the memory of his father. For instance, at the initiative of the new North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Il was awarded the title of generalissimo, and the Kumsusan Memorial Palace was renamed into the “Palace of Sun”.

In this connection, the prime minister called for standing closer behind Kim Jong-Un whose leadership “will be a guarantee for successful implementation of the DPRK’s revolutionary course”.

Then, the rally was addressed by Minister of People’s Armed Forces and Vice-Marshal Kim Yong-Chun. According to the vice-marshal, thanks to Kim Jong-Il’s efforts, North Korea “has turned into an invincible country which nobody dares to attack”.

Now, the minister went on to say, the state is headed by Kim Jong-Un, inspecting military units and “demonstrating firm determination to pursue further the songun policy (militarily oriented policy of North Korea)”. The vice-marshal noted that such trips “instill faith in victory into our servicemen”.

“The people and the army will defend with all efforts the central committee of the Korean Workers Party headed by Kim Jong-Un,” the minister stressed. He blasted the South Korean authorities for the provocative policy of confrontation against fellow countrymen in the North.

Following the rally in the central square of Pyongyang where a large portrait of Kim Jong-Il was exhibited and where gun salvoes thundered, North Korean people honoured the memory of the passed leader with three-minute silence exactly at 12.00 local time. All locomotives and ships as well as cars hooted simultaneously.

The rally was attended by all the country’s leadership, including Kim Jong-Un, heads and representatives of foreign diplomatic missions, officers of international humanitarian organizations, operating here, and foreign reporters.

Rallies and meetings, dedicated to Kim Jong-Il who headed North Korea over the past 17 years, took place in all districts of the country. The head of state passed away on last December 17 of a heart attack, caused by extreme overwork.

Members of the DPRK central leadership attending a national memorial rally in Pyongyang on 25 March 2012. Seen in attendance in this image (L-R) are: Jang Song Taek; Gen. O Kuk Ryol; Kim Ki Nam; VMar Ri Yong Mu; VMar Kim Yong Chun; VMar Ri Yong Ho; Kim Jong Un; Kim Yong Nam; Choe Yong Rim (Photo: KCNA)

Kim Jong Un (2nd R) bows during a 25 March national memorial rally held to end the 100-days of mourning for his father, Kim Jong Il. In this image are: NDC Vice Chairman, VMar Ri Yong Mu (L); NDC Vice Chairman and Minister of the People's Armed Forces, VMar Kim Yong Chun (2nd L); Chief of the KPA General Staff, VMar Ri Yong Ho; and, SPA Presidium President Kim Yong Nam (Photo: KCNA)

Kim Jong-Un (C), top leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), attends the memorial service to mark the 100th day since the death of Kim Jong Il, late top leader of DPRK, at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang on March 25, 2012. (Xinhua/Zhang Li)

NHK reports:

North Korea held a large ceremony on Sunday to mark the 100th day after the death of former leader Kim Jong Il.

Many military personnel gathered at a square in Pyongyang, the capital, where a huge portrait of the former leader was placed.

Kim’s son and the country’s new leader, Kim Jong Un, appeared on a podium with top officials of the Workers’ Party and military and they together observed a moment of silence.

The prayer was followed by a speech by Premier Choe Yong Rim, in which he praised the former leader and stressed that Kim Jong Un will carry on his achievements.

Choe also condemned South Korea’s government of President Lee Myung-bak.

Sunday’s ceremony is seen as North Korea’s attempt to show at home and abroad that the period of mourning for the former leader has ended. It is also apparently designed to arouse loyalty from military personnel.

North Korea plans to hold a series of political events next month to mark the centenary of the birth of its founder, Kim Il Sung. They include a meeting of representatives of the Workers’ Party and a session of the Supreme People’s Assembly, the country’s parliament.

North Korea also plans to launch a rocket carrying a satellite. The plan has drawn criticism from Japan, the United States, South Korea, and other countries as a violation of UN resolutions as the launch will involve long-range ballistic missile technology.

Kim Jong Un (C) and members of the central leadership prepare to bow in front of an image of Kim Jong Il mounted on marble (below) at Ku'msusan Memorial Palace, as the DPRK ended its 100-day mourning period. (Photo: KCNA-Yonhap)

Members of the central leadership bow to an image of Kim Jong Il. Standing behind Kim Jong Un are: his aunt Kim Kyong Hui (1st row, L) DPRK Premier Choe Yong Rim (1st row, 2nd L) DPRK Vice Premier Kang Sok Ju (2nd row, 3rd R), Chief of the KPA General Staff VMar Ri Yong Ho (1st row, 2nd R) and NDC Vice Chairman and Minister of the People's Armed Forces Kim Yong Chun (1st row, R) (Photo: KCNA-Yonhap)

Members of the central leadership bow to an image of Kim Jong Il. Standing behind Kim Jong Un are: SPA Presidium President Kim Yong Nam (L), NDC Vice Chairman Gen. O Kuk Ryol (3rd R), NDC Vice Chairman and Kim Jong Un's uncle Jang Song Taek (2nd R) and NDC Member and Senior Vice Director of the KPA General Political Department, VMar Kim Jong Gak (R) (Photo: KCNA-Yonhap)

Meanwhile, northwest of Pyongyang, preparations for the April 2012 launch of the U’nha-3 are underway.  Yonhap reports:

North Korea has brought the main body of a long-range rocket to a launch site in the northwestern part of the impoverished, nuclear-armed communist state, a local report said Sunday.

A train took the main body to the launch facility in Dongchang-ri, Cholsan County, North Pyongan Province, Saturday, Fuji Television said citing informed sources.

North Korea has said it will launch the rocket to put an observation satellite into orbit between April 12 and 16 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the birth of its founding father Kim Il-sung, which falls on April 15.

Kim Il-sung is the father of Kim Jong-il, the late North Korean leader who died of heart attack in December. Kim Jong-il’s son, Jong-un, has taken over in the unprecedented third-generation power transition in any communist state.

South Korea and the United States have called on the North to refrain from the planned rocket launch, seeing it as a disguised ballistic missile test.

The North’s move comes as U.S. President Barack Obama and scores of other global leaders are flocking to Seoul to attend the second Nuclear Security Summit.

Washington has said it will not provide food aid to Pyongyang if the North proceeds with the rocket launch, although the U.S. agreed in February to ship 240,000 tons of food to the impoverished North in return for the North’s moratorium on missile and nuclear tests and freeze of uranium enrichment.

North Korea has been under U.N. sanctions imposed in 2009 after Pyongyang’s nuclear and long-range rocket tests.

A view of the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in Tongch'ang-ri, North P'yo'ngan Province, taken on 20 March 2012 (Photo: Yonhap)

RT reports on the preparations of the launch, as well as reactions and interactions in Seoul where the Nuclear Security Summit will open on Monday (26 March):

North Korean military specialists have delivered parts of a ballistic missile to the country’s northwestern launch pad, South Korean military informed. The launch is at the center of international concern as it is believed to have a military motive.

­Pyongyang is preparing to mark the centennial of North Korea founder, “farther of nation” Kim Il-sun in April with Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite space launch. The country is firmly intended to conduct a launch around April 15 according to North Korea’s Foreign Ministry. North Korea insists that the launch is purely civilian and that it has a sovereign right to pursue space exploration.

Washington believes North Korea’s rocket launches are a cover to test a nuclear warhead delivery vehicle. If the test is successful, Pyongyang’s long-range rocket will be capable of targeting Alaska and beyond.

North Korea’s upcoming rocket launch is going to be aimed south into a triangle area “roughly between Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines”, a senior US official has warned.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported on Saturday that Kurt Campbell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, shared this information with Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on North Korean leaders to abstain from carrying out the launch. He recalled UN Resolution 1874, which prohibits North Korea from developing and testing long-range missiles and having an active nuclear weapons program. This resolution was adopted in 2009 after a North Korean space launch, and the new firing is being considered a violation of the UN-adopted resolution.

The UN secretary-general met South Korean leader Lee Myung-bak in Seoul and they called the missile test a “provocation against the international community.”

The North Korean launch is expected to dominate sideline discussions of leaders from nearly 60 countries at the nuclear security summit in Seoul.

North Korean neighbor Japan condemns the test and announced it is going to shot the rocket down using three AEGIS warships should it threaten the country.

The US, France, Russia and other countries condemned North Korea’s plans.

American President Barack Obama has visited the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea on Sunday. He observed the movements of North Korean troops on the other side being behind armored glass just 100 meters from the 38th parallel that divides the two countries.

President Obama warned Pyongyang would find itself in even deeper isolation from the international community if the long-range rocket launch takes place.

“North Korea will achieve nothing by threats or provocations,” Obama said during a news conference in Seoul. “Bad behavior will not be rewarded,” Obama added.

North Korea has been consistently insisting on the peaceful nature of its space program. But since the country’s population continues to live in desperate need, it is hard to explain why a country dependent on foreign humanitarian aid needs multi-stage rockets capable of delivering nuclear warheads.

In response to questions from journalists, the two leaders said it was hard to make an assessment of North Korea’s new leader, Kim Jong-un, who came to power following the death of his father, Kim Jong-il, in December.Mr Obama said it was “not clear exactly who is calling the shots” in North Korea and what their long-term objectives were, while Mr Lee said the planned rocket launch was a “disappointment”.

The BBC’s Lucy Williamson in Seoul says there had been hopes that the US aid deal and a new, young leader were indications the crisis could be moving towards resolution, but that with the announcement of the missile test, those hopes have gone.

The launch is scheduled for 12-16 April, to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the birth of the country late Great Leader Kim Il-sung.

South Korean defence officials say the main body of the rocket has now been moved to the launch site in preparation.

Earlier on Sunday, Mr Obama visited some of the US personnel based at the the heavily fortified Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) which separates the two Koreas.

The US has some 28,000 troops stationed in South Korea under a post-Korean War security alliance.

Mr Obama told the soldiers they were defending “freedom’s frontier” and thanked them for helping to “create the space and the opportunity for freedom and prosperity”.

Mr Lee is hosting more than 50 countries for a two-day summit on nuclear security in Seoul starting on Monday.

The summit’s main focus will be preventing criminal or militant groups from acquiring nuclear weapons – North Korea is not officially on the agenda but is expected to feature in talks on the sidelines.

Meanwhile, North Koreans have been marking the end of 100 days of official mourning for Kim Jong-il. Tens of thousands of people gathered in Pyongyang to pay tribute to the leader, who died of a heart attack in December.

The Associated Press reports:

The president’s three-day trip here amounts to a reminder of the international struggles in his lap in the midst of a re-election year driven more by economic woes. He came to solidify pressure on North Korea, seek help with crises in Syria and Iran and advance a global effort he spearheaded to keep nuclear material from getting into terrorists’ hands.

Obama wore a tired look after a 17-hour flight from Washington, a helicopter ride to the border zone, two sets of diplomatic talks, the news conference and an official dinner. But he succeeded in showing solidarity with his diplomatic friend, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, and in cementing a lasting presidential image from inside no-man’s land.

The Demilitarized Zone is a Cold War anachronism, a legacy of the uncertain armistice that ended the Korean War nearly 60 years ago. Hundreds of thousands of troops stand ready on both sides of the border zone, which is littered with land mines and encased in razor wire.

From a lookout point with binoculars is hand, Obama peered North, then South, within a football-field’s length of the demarcation line.

He also shook hands and spoke briefly in the dining hall at a U.S. military camp just outside the 2.5-mile-zone, saying the troops were working at “freedom’s frontier.”

The United States has about 28,500 troops in South Korea, a deterrent force and a symbol of the military might Obama wants to keep in Asia.

The planned rocket launch by North Korea is yet another setback for the U.S. in years of on-again, off-again attempts to launch real negotiations.

North Korea walked away from international disarmament talks in 2009. Years of fitful negotiations had succeeded in ending part of North Korea’s nuclear program but failed in stopping it from building and testing nuclear devices and long-range missiles that might be able to carry bombs.

Obama said the launch would jeopardize a new deal for the U.S. to resume food aid to North Korea, and the world community would likely respond with another round of sanctions.

The big consequence for North Korea, he said, would be one big blown opportunity.

“If a country can’t feed its people effectively, if it can’t make anything of any use to anybody, if it has no exports other than weapons, and even those aren’t ones that in any way would be considered state-of-the-art … then you’d think you’d want to try something different.”

For his part, Lee said: “There is no difference of opinion between the U.S. and South Korea. We’ll remain very calm and rational and we will be wise in dealing with the North Koreans if in fact they do go ahead with their announcement.”

Obama has called nuclear terrorism the gravest threat the United States and the world may face. North Korea is a prime suspect in the proliferation of some nuclear know-how, along with missiles that could be used to deliver weapons of mass destruction.

SPA To Convene on 13 April

24 Mar

DPRK state media reported on 24 March (Saturday) that the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly [SPA] will convene on 13 April 2012 for its fifth session (plenum; plenary session).  The meeting of the country’s unicameral legislature has been scheduled during the range of possible launch dates of the U’nha-3 reported to international organizations by the Korea Committee for Space Technology.  The 12th SPA’s fifth session is also scheduled to occur at about the same time as the 4th Party Conference which was scheduled for “mid-April,” as well as 12 days ahead of the official 80th anniversary of the foundation of the Korean People’s Army [KPA].  KCNA reports:

The Fifth Session of the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) of the DPRK will be held here on April 13.

A relevant decision of the Presidium of the SPA was released on Thursday.

Kyodo English reports:

North Korea will convene a parliamentary session on April 13, the country’s official media reported Saturday, fueling speculation that leader Kim Jong Un may be elected chairman of the National Defense Commission, the leading state organ.

Analysts have been watching to see when Kim, who became supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army in late December, will inherit two other major posts his later father Kim Jong Il possessed as leader — general secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea and chairman of the National Defense Commission.

Article 100 of North Korea’s Constitution says the chairman of the defense commission is ”the supreme leader” of the country.

”The Fifth Session of the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly of the DPRK will be held here on April 13,” the Korean Central News Agency said in a short dispatch from Pyongyang, referring to North Korea by the acronym for its official name the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The session comes two days before the country marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of state founder Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Un’s grandfather.

There is growing speculation that Kim Jong Un may become general secretary of the party at a party conference slated for mid-April.

Once he inherits all three titles, North Korea will have effectively completed the transition of power to the younger Kim from Kim Jong Il, who died of a heart attack on Dec. 17 at age 69.

At the parliamentary session, delegates are likely to deliberate issues such as government activities and the state budget. They may also elect members of the National Defense Commission.

Xinhua English:

The Fifth Session of the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) of the DPRK will be held onApril 13, and representatives of the SPA should be registered on April 11-12, said the KCNA ina brief dispatch, without elaborating its agenda.

The SPA is the supreme power organ of the DPRK, which holds the highest position andauthority of the country and exercises legislative power.

The announcement came as the country’s preparations for a satellite launch “have entered afull-fledged stage of action,” a spokesman for the DPRK’s foreign ministry said Friday.

According to the KCNA, the projected launch of the Satellite Kwangmyongsong-3 is to mark thecentenary of the birth of late President Kim Il Sung, and it is a worldwide trend to launch anduse satellites needed for a country’s economic development.

The spokesman said peaceful satellite launching is an exercise of “an independent andlegitimate right” for all countries.

The DPRK’s satellite launch is “an issue fundamentally different from the February 29 DPRK-US Agreement,” as the DPRK has consistently clarified that “the satellite launch is not includedin the long-range missile launch” covered by the DPRK-U.S. high-level talks, the spokesmanadded.

Kim Jong Un has not been reported to be a deputy (delegate) to the SPA.  According to some Pyongyang watchers, KJU was elected under a pseudonym during the SPA election in March 2009.  He has also not been reported in attendance at any SPA sessions and no images or video footage of him attending a session have surfaced in documentary films or other media promoting his succession.  After the announcement of the 4th party conference, some watchers estimated that the 5th session of the 12th SPA would be held to appoint KJU as his father’s replacement as Chairman of the National Defense Commission [NDC].

However, the central leadership may defer KJU’s NDC appointment until another 12th SPA session in 2012 or 2013, or wait until 2014 when the country elects and convenes the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly.  Kim Jong Il did not become an SPA deputy until the convocation of the 7th Supreme People’s Assembly in 1982, which took place after he was elected to the Political Bureau Presidium, Party Secretariat and Party Central Military Commission during the 6th Party Congress in October 1980.  And yet, there is no constitutional mandate  that the NDC Chairman be an active deputy of the SPA to qualify for election to the DPRK government’s highest office.

Even if Kim Jong Un is a deputy to the SPA, he is most likely its youngest member.  According to a brief news item published on Urminzokkiri (Urminjokkkiri) on 23 February 2012, 49.5 % of SPA deputies were ages 35-55 and 50.5 % were age 56 or older.  The same news item reported that of the 12th SPA’s 687 deputies: 15.6 % were women; 16.9% were officers or service members of the KPA; 10.9% were factory or clerical workers; 10.1% were agricultural workers; 94.2% graduated from an institution of higher learning; and, 42.4 % were recipients of the Kim Il Sung Award, Hero of the Republic or other state titles.

The last session of the 12th SPA was held on 7 April 2011.  In addition to approving the DPRK Cabinet’s policy and budget proposals for the year, Gen. Ri Myo’ng-su was appointed Minister of People’s Security to replace the dismissed Gen. Ju Sang Song.  Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Secretary Pak To Chun was elected a member of the National Defense Commission [NDC] to replace Jon Pyong Ho.  Neither Kim Jong Il, Kim Jong Un nor Mr. Pak attended the 12th SPA’s 4th session.  At the time, KJI was touring factories and other locales in Chagang Province.  It is highly likely that during this particular tour, KJI was involved in setting policy guidance around the Sohae Center’s maiden launch

Personnel Changes

24 Mar

Rumors of the DPRK’s first post-KJI purge of senior military officials have surfaced in the South Korean press.  KBS and Chosun Ilbo reported that a deputy chief of the Korean People’s Army [KPA] General Staff was executed earlier this year for “sexual harassment.”  At about the same time a deputy (vice) minister of the People’s Armed Forces was dismissed and subsequently executed for drinking too much alcohol.  In the latter case, the deputy PAF minister was allegedly rendered into a grease spot on the wall after being hit with an 82 mm mortar round fired at close range.  VMar Kim Jong Gak (Kim Cho’ng-kak), deputy (vice) director of the KPA General Political Department, was identified as having managed the executions and dismissals.

KPA VMar Kim Jong Gak (1st row, L)

These executions were the result of an order from the central leadership to ferret out military and party officials for insufficiently demonstrating grief around Kim Jong Il’s funeral and during the mourning period.  As KJI funeral events unfolded in late December 2011, several party cadres of the Personal Secretariat also seemed to fall by the wayside.  KBS World reports:

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is known to have executed or fired some military officers and government officials for committing immoral acts during the mourning period of his father Kim Jong-il.

Sources familiar with North Korean affairs say a vice chief of North Korea’s General Staff was shot to death for his involvement in a sex scandal during the morning period. He was one of six or seven vice chairmen under North Korea’s Army Chief of the General Staff, Ri Yong-ho.

A vice minister of People’s Armed Forces was apparently shot to death as well for drinking alcohol with a female official.

The source said that the dean of Kim Hyung-jik College of Education was dismissed for arriving late at the funeral for Kim Jong-il. A secretary at the Ministry of Land and Marine Transport was also fired for failing to appropriately make arrangement for condolence flowers.

The source also said that in January Kim Jong-un ordered the dismissal of anyone who failed to observe the mourning period.

Chosun Ilbo reported that several unit commanders were also executed, in addition to the two officials from the high command:

“When Kim Jong-un became North Korean leader following the mourning period for his father in late December, high-ranking military officers started disappearing,” the source said. “From information compiled over the last month, we have concluded that dozens of military officers were purged.” The source added Kim Jong-un ordered loyal officials to “get rid of” anyone caught misbehaving during the mourning period for Kim Jong-il.

But contrary to reports that an assistant chief of the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces was put in front of a firing squad for being drunk during the mourning period, he was executed using a mortar round in line with Kim’s orders to leave “no trace of him behind, down to his hair.”

The source said the official was placed on the spot where the round would hit, and the grisly execution obliterated him.

Besides the assistant chief and an assistant chief of the General Staff Department, frontline commanders were also executed, the source said.

Kim Jong-il also purged dissenters after the death of his father Kim Il-sung in 1994. Even those caught for minor infractions were executed by a firing squad.

But Kim Jong-un’s methods appear even more brutal. A source familiar with North Korea said, “It appears that the loyalty pledged by the military did not satisfy the young leader, who is sensitive about his age.” Kim junior is 28 or 29.

The source said the drastic measures may have been proposed by Kim’s confidant Kim Jong-gak (62), the first deputy director of the General Political Bureau of the North Korean People’s Army.

Outgoing Kim Il Sung Youth League 1st Secretary Ri Yong Chol (highlighted) applauds during the national report meeting held on Kim Jong Il's birthday on 15 February 2012 (Photo: KCNA-Yonhap)

Meanwhile, Ri Yong Chol (Ri Yo’ng-ch’o’l) has been replaced as the head of the Kim Il Sung Youth League [KISYL].  Ri was replaced by Jon Yong Nam during the KISYL annual meeting which was held on Thursday (22 March).  During the fall of 2011, Ri led a KISYL delegation on an overseas excursion to the UK and Greece and in November 2011 Ri led a large KISYL delegation on a brief visit to China where they met with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping.  KCNA reports:

The 47th plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the Kim Il Sung Socialist Youth League was held in Pyongyang on Thursday.

At the meeting former First Secretary Ri Yong Chol was relieved of his post for his age reason and Jon Yong Nam was elected to the post.

Hyon Hak Bong Presents Credentials in Dublin

24 Mar

DPRK Ambassador Hyon Hak Bong reviews a troop presentation outside of Áras an Uachtaráin (President's House) in Dublin on 14 March 2012 (Photo: Laura Hutton, Photocall)

Newly appointed DPRK Ambassador to the UK, Hyon Hak Bong (Hyo’n Hak-pong) presented his credentials to the President of the Republic of Ireland, Hyon’s nonresident diplomatic mission.  KCNA reports:

Ireland hopes for boosting the friendly and cooperative relations with the DPRK in the political, economic, cultural and other fields, said the president of the Republic of Ireland on March 14.

Micheal Higgins made the remark when he was presented with credentials from Hyon Hak Bong, DPRK ambassador to the country.

The president expressed deep condolences again over the unexpected demise of leader Kim Jong Il.

The friendly and cooperative relations between Ireland and the DPRK are developing on good terms in various fields after the establishment of diplomatic relations, the president said.

The president wished the dear respected Kim Jong Un great success in his work for developing the country’s economy and improving the standard of people’s living.

DPRK Ambassador Hyon Hak Bong (R) presents his credentials to Irish President Michael Higgins (L) on 14 March 2012 at Áras an Uachtaráin in Dublin (Photo: Laura Hutton, Photocall)

The Journal reports:

Three news ambassadors have presented their credentials to President Michael D Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin.

The new ambassadors for Mozambique, North Korea and Lao attended the ceremony this morning along with some family members and officials from their embassies.

New ambassador Hyon Hak Bong of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was accompanied by the first secretary from the North Korean embassy. Carlos dos Santos of Mozambique and Khouanta Phalivong of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic were both accompanied by their wives.

The government was represented at the ceremony by Joe Costello, who is Minister of State for trade and development at the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The ambassadors received an army escort of honour as they were driven to and from the Áras, consisting of a motorcycle detachment from the 2nd Cavalry Squadron from Cathal Brugha Barracks.

The guard of honour outside the Áras was given by soldiers from the 1 Southern Brigade, 4th Infantry Battalion from Collins Barracks in Cork under the command of Lieutenant Ruairi O’Connor.

DPRK Invites Journalists and Experts to Observe Kwangmyongsong-3 Launch

17 Mar

Kim Jong Un (C) visits the KPA Strategic Rocket Forces Command (Photo: KCNA)

The Korea Committee for Space Technology reports in DPRK media that it officially notified several relevant international organizations of its intention to launch the Kwangmyo’ngso’ng-3.  KCNA reports:

The relevant bodies of the DPRK sent necessary information to the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Maritime Organization, the International Telecommunication Union and others according to international regulations and procedures as part of the preparations for the launch of earth observation satellite Kwangmyongsong-3.

The Korean Committee for Space Technology will invite experienced foreign experts on space science and technology and journalists to visit the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, the General Satellite Control and Command Centre and other places and observe its launch.

Meanwhile, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun conveyed his country’s concerns over the launch to DPRK Ambassador to the PRC Ji Jae Ryong.  Xinhua reports:

The U.S. Defense Department warned Friday that the launch of a long-range rocket would violate a series of UN resolutions and considered it as a “destabilizing behavior” to the Asia-Pacific region.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby urged the DPRK leadership to “reconsider this decision and to conform to their obligations under those sanctions.”

“We continue to operate every day with our South Korean counterparts and we hold firmly to our alliance obligations and to security on the Korean Peninsula,” said Kirby.

He added that the Defense Department is “very comfortable with the full range of military capabilities we have at our disposal in the Asia Pacific region and in and around the Korean peninsula.”

The U.S. State Department also said the launch plan could jeopardize nascent efforts to restart nuclear negotiations with the DPRK and made it “very hard” to go forward with its planned food assistance to the DPRK.

“Were we to have the launch, it would create obviously tensions and that would make the implementation of any kind of nutritional agreement quite difficult,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, hinting that the DPRK’s latest move was “an abrogation of that agreement.”

According to a deal reached between Pyongyang and Washington in Beijing late last month, the United States agreed to provide 240,000 tons of food as aid to the DPRK in exchange for Pyongyang’s promise to impose a moratorium on nuclear tests and missile launches, and allow checks by international nuclear inspectors.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton slammed the DPRK’s launch plan as “highly provocative,” warning that such a launch would pose a threat to regional security and would also be inconsistent with the DPRK’s recent undertaking to refrain from long-range missile launches.

Clinton urged the DPRK to “adhere to its international obligations, including all relevant UN Security Council resolutions,” adding that Washington is consulting closely with its international partners on the next steps.

Meanwhile, Russia said it was also seriously concerned about Pyongyang’s rocket launch plan, urging it not to proceed with it.

Russia’s foreign ministry called on the DPRK not to oppose itself to the international community, and create additional difficulties for restarting the six-party talks on the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula.

Moscow also said the resumption of the long-stalled talks and diplomatic solutions are the only viable option available to both terminate the nuclear problems in the region and to lift the UN sanctions against the country, which is prohibited from conducting launches that use ballistic missile technology.

However, the ministry also said Moscow had never denied the DPRK’s sovereign right to pursue peaceful space programs and urged all parties involved to exercise maximum restraint.

The DPRK’s neighboring country South Korea Friday also voiced its “serious concern” over the plan, calling it a “grave provocation threatening the peace and security” on the Korean Peninsula as well as Northeast Asia.

The South Korean foreign ministry said it would work closely with related countries, including members of the six-party talks, to urge the DPRK to “immediately stop provocative act and abide by its international obligations.”

Also on Friday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he is “seriously concerned” about the DPRK’s satellite launch.

In a statement, the UN chief called on Pyongyang to fully comply with the UN resolutions that ban any launch using ballistic missile technology.

China has also voiced its concern over the DPRK’s satellite launch plan.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun, in a meeting with the DPRK Ambassador to China Ji Jae Ryong on Friday, expressed China’s worry over the matter, according to a statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Zhang exchanged views with Ji on China-DPRK ties and the situation on the Korean Peninsula, said the statement.

Zhang said China had taken note of the DPRK’s satellite plan as well as the reaction from the international community. China believes it is the common obligation and in common interests of all parties concerned to maintain the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia, said the statement.

“We sincerely hope parties concerned stay calm and exercise restraint and avoid escalation of tension that may lead to a more complicated situation,” Zhang was quoted as saying.

On April 5, 2009, the DPRK conducted a similar launch, which, according to the country’s official KCNA news agency, successfully put a “Kwangmyongsong-2″ communications satellite into orbit. But some countries, including South Korea, Russia and the United States, believed the launch was a failure. The launch brought about criticism and tightened sanctions on the DPRK.

The DPRK insists its satellite launches are for peaceful and scientific purposes. The KCNA said in a report on Friday that the upcoming launch would greatly encourage the army and people of the DPRK 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.”

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