North Korea Readies Rocket Launch

North Korean technicians man computer terminals at North Korea's space agency's General Launch Command Center on the outskirts of  Pyongyang, April 11, 2012.
North Korean technicians man computer terminals at North Korea's space agency's General Launch Command Center on the outskirts of Pyongyang, April 11, 2012.
Baik Sungwon

North Korea is counting down to a rocket launch that has been widely condemned by the international community. North Korean authorities on Wednesday invited foreign journalists to a satellite control center and showed the latest preparations. 

Paek Chang-ho, head of the control center for the North Korean Committee of Space Technology, told the group of international reporters that fuel was being loaded onto the rocket, which is set for launch sometime between Thursday and Monday, depending on weather conditions.

Video monitors showed the rocket covered with green tarpaulin.

Watch a related video report by Laurel Bowman

Paek said a satellite - the Gwangmyungsung-3 - has been installed on the rocket and explained what will happen if it enters into orbit.  

“After ‘Gwangmyungsung-3 successfully enters orbit, we will receive satellite imagery and relay the images to relevant departments including the Earth Environment Information Center. The images are crucial to the development of the economy,” he said.

Paek said Pyongyang opened the launch facility to the journalists in an effort to dispel concerns by the West and North Korea's neighbors that it is testing a long-range ballistic missile. He asked for impartial judgement by foreign journalists and experts.

Peaceful intentions?

Recent Events in N. Korea's Nuclear History

  • 2006: Announces successful test of a nuclear explosive device
  • 2007: Shuts down Yongbyon nuclear facility and allows IAEA inspectors back into the country
  • 2009:Launches long-range missile over the Sea of Japan, prompting a rebuke from the U.N. Security Council
  • 2012: Agrees to a moratorium of nuclear tests and uranium enrichment activity at Yongbyon, and to suspend its long-range missile launches
  • 2012: Announces plans to launch a weather satellite in an act seen by critics as a disguised ballistic missile test

James Oberg, a space consultant for American broadcaster NBC, indicated that Pyongyang’s claims are plausible. “I believe that this is not a military shot,” he said while North Korean officials looked on. When asked about the subject later, Oberg told VOA that it was a complicated matter, without elaborating.  "It's not simple," he said.

The United States and its allies say the rocket launch violates a U.N. Security Council ban on any North Korean ballistic missile testing. Japan and South Korea threatened to shoot down the rocket it it strays over their territory, an action Pyongyang has said would amount to a declaration of war.

Nuclear test

Western military experts say the technology for launching a rocket carrying a satellite and for launching a military missile is much the same, so this launch essentially tests Pyongyang's weapons systems.

Paek, however, said he will do everything to show the mission is peaceful, including sharing images sent by the satellite with other countries.

He joked with the reporters that they could fly with the rocket and see if there is a warhead or a satellite inside, and said he would have a rubber boat to catch them after its stages fall into the sea.

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Comment Sorting
by: Irys
April 12, 2012 8:41 AM
@NVO. I think that you are giving waaay too much credit to USA for WWII. We were only involved in it for one year, and that at the very end of the war, when it was pretty much over already. Yes, we had helped. But we did not change the course of the war that was already dying off.

by: Celestine kalu
April 12, 2012 1:27 AM
We need peace, America why not first distroy ur stock of misills then u can condem s.korea. If ur hands are clean cast d first stone.

by: NVO
April 11, 2012 7:57 AM
ACME Rocket, Wiley Coyote:SHAM!!!

by: Peter
April 11, 2012 2:34 AM
They can't feed the population but they can spend heaps on rockets!

by: Mike Watkins-mike @
April 11, 2012 1:07 AM
the only country to have used a nuclear weapon is the world's biggest crime syndicate the USA.Americans must give up their missiles and enrichment if they expect others to do so.the world sits in recession today because of USA's capitalism is as evil as North Korea's communism.both are forces of Satan in the world.our lives are threatened by American cowardice and greed

by: BBG
April 11, 2012 1:04 AM
What is new. They will launch their new toy to secure even more American and western gifts of aide. It has been like this since the 1950's and America keeps playing their game on their terms.

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