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December 14, 2012

North Korea Vows More Satellite Launches

by VOA News

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is vowing to send more satellites to space, just days after the country's successful long-range rocket launch provoked international condemnation.

The official Korean Central News Agency said that Kim "stressed the need" to continue the satellite launches "to develop the country's science, technology, and economy."

The United Nations Security Council condemned Wednesday's launch as a "clear violation" of sanctions barring Pyongyang from carrying out missile or nuclear tests.

But it was welcomed in North Korea, where hundreds of thousands of civilians and soldiers gathered Friday to celebrate the success of the mission.

Standing in tightly organized ranks in Pyongyang's Kim Il Sung Square, the massive crowd cheered as top officials, including Vice Chief of the General Staff of the Army Ro Gwang Chol, praised Kim's "bravery and wisdom."

"At the news of the successful entry into orbit, our soldiers have been full of delight and strong emotions, shouting 'hurrahs' at the top of their voices, in the sky, at sea, as well as at all guard posts on the ground," said one North Korean in attendance.

The successful launch puts North Korea one step closer to achieving its goal of having the capability to strike the United States with an intercontinental ballistic missile. In order to reach that goal, experts say North Korea would need to conduct a series of additional tests.

A top South Korean official suggested Friday a third underground nuclear test could be the next step. Seoul's Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik told reporters that intelligence suggests Pyongyang has already made preparations for a nuclear test, which he said is "highly probable."

The North's previous nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009 were carried out within months of long-range rocket launches.

Observers say the timing of this week's launch was meant to coincide with Monday's first anniversary of the death of Kim's father, former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

Pyongyang was embarrassed by the failure of a similar launch in April, just months after the young Kim succeeded his father in power. The successful launch helped bolster the credentials of Kim, who is thought to be in his late 20s.

State media have been quick to highlight what they say is Kim's first-hand role in the mission. The KCNA praised the "dear respected marshal," who it said "keenly observed the whole process of the launch."

State television broadcast images purporting to show Kim and senior military officials visiting the satellite control center just hours before lift-off. It said he gave the "final written order" for the launch.

Analysts have acknowledged that the object placed into space does appear to have achieved orbit, but have not yet confirmed whether it is successfully communicating with Pyongyang.