North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

DPRK to Launch Kwangmyongsong-3 Satellite & Unha-3 Rocket in April

DPRK state media reported on 16 March (Friday) the country’s Korea Committee for Space Technology will launch the Kwangmyo’ngso’ng-3 satellite between 12 and 16 April from the Sohae Satellite Center in Ch’ol’san County, North P’yo’ngan Province.  The launch will be held in honor of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, the late DPRK President, founder of the country and grandfather of current supreme leader Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n).   KCNA reports:

Kwangmyongsong-3, a polar-orbiting earth observation satellite, will be blasted off southward from the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in Cholsan County, North Phyongan Province between April 12 and 16, lifted by carrier rocket Unha-3. 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.

The DPRK will strictly abide by relevant international regulations and usage concerning the launch of scientific and technological satellites for peaceful purposes and ensure maximum transparency, thereby contributing to promoting international trust and cooperation in the field of space scientific researches and satellite launches.

The upcoming launch will 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.

Xinhua English reports:

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is to launch in mid-April a working satellite, Kwangmyongsong-3, manufactured by itself with indigenous technology to mark the 100th birth anniversary of President Kim Il Sung, the official news agency KCNA reported Friday.

A spokesman for the Korean Committee for Space Technology, who announced this in a statement Friday, said the expected launch, scheduled between April 12 and 16, is in line with the government’s policy for space development and peaceful use, said the report.

“The DPRK will strictly abide by relevant international regulations and usage concerning the launch of scientific and technological satellites for peaceful purposes and ensure maximum transparency, thereby contributing to promoting international trust and cooperation in the field of space scientific researches and satellite launches,” said the statement.

After successfully launching two experimental satellites, the DPRK scientists and technicians have steadily conducted scientific researches to develop and utilize working satellites indispensable for the country’s economic development, said the statement.

Through the researches they have made a drastic progress in the field of space science and technology and laid solid material and technological foundations for working satellite launches and operation, it added.

It is reported that Kwangmyongsong-3, a polar-orbiting earth observation satellite, will be lifted by carrier rocket Unha-3 and blast off southward from the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in Cholsan County, North Phyongan Province.

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.

According to the KCNA, the upcoming launch will 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.”

Kim Jong Un (3rd R) looks at training equipments during his visit to the KPA Strategic Rocket Force Command in the suburbs of Pyongyang. Also in attendance is Gen. Pak Jae Gyong (R) (Photo: KCNA-Yonhap)

Yonhap reports:

The announcement came just weeks after North Korea agreed to temporarily put a moratorium on missile and nuclear tests and freeze its uranium-enrichment facilities in exchange for 240,000 tons of food aid from the United States.

South Korea expressed “serious concern” over the North’s plan, noting the launch would violate a U.N. Security Council resolution.

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 it has chosen a safe flight orbit to ensure 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.”

Meanwhile, South Korea called on North Korea to “immediately stop such a provocative act and abide by its international obligations.”

The launch “will become a grave provocative act against peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia,” the Foreign Ministy said in a statement.

The North’s move could be aimed at boosting its negotiating power with the U.S. after their recent nuclear deal, said 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.

Mark Fitzpatrick writes on IISS’ blog about how this announcement affects the Leap Day Deal:

Space launches differ from ballistic-missile tests in their purpose and trajectory. Where space launches only need to go up, ballistic missiles must also come down, to securely deliver their payload, and need to survive atmospheric re-entry. The 2011 IISS Strategic Dossier on North Korean Security Challenges describes the differences in detail (p. 155). But because satellite-launch rockets and ballistic missiles share the same bodies, engines, launch sites and other development processes, they are intricately linked. The satellite launch also provides missile-development information regarding propulsion, guidance and operational aspects.

That is why most nations insisted that the Unha-2 test violated the ban under UN Security Council Resolution 1718 on ‘any launch using ballistic missile technology’ and UNSCR 1874 on ‘all activities related to [North Korea’s] ballistic missile programme’. When the Security Council mildly rebuked North Korea for that test, Pyongyang’s response was to abrogate all past agreements and to conduct a second nuclear test.

It is easy to see events now playing out as they did three years ago. The 15 April test launch will undoubtedly provoke a similar rebuke. Given the symbolism of the satellite launch on Kim Il-sung’s birthday, that rebuke will not be worn lightly. It would not be too surprising if Pyongyang then abrogated the Leap Day deal and set off another nuclear explosion.

When the North Korean leadership approved the Leap Day deal they must have known that a satellite launch was planned. Some may therefore conclude that the deal was a ruse, and that North Korea has no real intention to settle differences. But that is too hasty a conclusion. The contradictory messages sent by the 29 February deal and the 16 March satellite-launch announcement could also indicate policy splits in the new leadership arrangement. If the satellite- launch announcement had come a day earlier, we might even call it the Ides of March stabbing.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Article Archives

March 2012
M T W T F S S
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031  
%d bloggers like this: