Thursday, 12 April 2012

North Korea Missile Launch Expected in Next 24 to 48 Hours


SEOUL—North Korea reportedly began fueling its multistage rocket on Wednesday, a day ahead of a five-day launch window for what many countries believe is a test of a long-range missile.
Officials in a number of countries, including Japan and the Philippines—which have territory close to the rocket's expected flight path—continued to urge Pyongyang not to proceed with what would be its fourth launch of a multistage rocket.
North Korean space authorities told reporters from foreign news
organizations allowed into the country for the event that fueling started and plans for the launch were on schedule. North Korea has said the rocket carries a weather satellite and is being launched as one of a series of events commemorating the 100th anniversary of the birth of the country's founder, Kim Il Sung.
In another of the events, the country's ruling Workers' Party convened a party conference on Wednesday and conferred a new title on Kim Jong Eun, the grandson of Kim Il Sung and son of Kim Jong Il who took control of the country after the death of his father in December.
The party said the younger Mr. Kim would be known as its First Secretary, adding to the military titles that formally place him at the center of the North's authoritarian regime. The party conference also gave Kim Jong Il a posthumous honor: the title of Eternal General Secretary. Kim Il Sung was similarly dubbed Eternal President after his death in 1994.
Another major North Korean organ, the Supreme People's Assembly, is scheduled to meet on Friday. On Sunday, the actual anniversary of Kim Il Sung's birth, celebratory events in the capital are anchored around a parade of military vehicles and hardware.
The regime for several years has built up the centennial as a moment to celebrate the nation's "strength and prosperity." While North Korea remains one of the most impoverished nations in the world, its pursuit of nuclear weapons and rocket technology is something the government has used to try rallying pride and support.
Reuters
A North Korean soldier this week stands guard near a rocket on a launch pad northwest of Pyongyang. Officials in a number of countries urged North Korea not to proceed with a launch of the multistage rocket.

Leaders of other countries in recent weeks urged North Korea not to proceed with the launch, saying it violated restrictions imposed by the United Nations Security Council after previous launches and weapons activities."We don't really care what the outside world thinks," said Paek Chang Ho, a North Korean space-program manager, told foreign reporters in Pyongyang Wednesday, according to the Associated Press. "This launch is critical to developing our space program and improving our economy."
North Korea has said it will launch the rocket between Thursday and Monday, as weather and other conditions permit. It notified international aviation and maritime authorities of a five-hour period each day, 7 a.m. to noon, when the launch may happen.
Airlines in Japan, the Philippines and South Korea announced they would reroute flights in the designated area of the East China and Philippine seas during those periods. Japan announced it had created a central office to monitor the launch. Earlier this week, it deployed antimissile rockets to fire at errant debris if it threatens Japanese islands.
Meanwhile, an online discussion has emerged among international rocket experts who said North Korea's statements about the intent of the launch don't match up with its forecast zones for splashdown of the first and second of the rocket's three stages.
North Korea has issued conflicting statements about the satellite's orbit, saying one time that it would be stationary orbit and another that it would move synchronously with the sun.
Write to Evan Ramstad at evan.ramstad@wsj.com

North Korea readies rocket for liftoff as Kim Jong Un solidifies hold on power with new posts



PYONGYANG, North Korea — North Korea was poised Thursday to send a rocket into space as the nation’s young leader ascended to new top political posts strengthening his hold on power.
There was no word early Thursday morning on the timing of the launch, which the North has said will take place sometime between Thursday and Monday. The launch, which the North says is for peaceful purposes, has raised international concern.
  • ( David Guttenfelder / Associated Press ) - A North Korean man looks down from a balcony at North Korea’s space agency’s General Launch Command Center on the outskirts of Pyongyang Wednesday, April 11, 2012. Engineers are pumping fuel into a rocket that is set to carry a satellite into space, officials at the North Korean space agency’s central command center said Wednesday, showing reporters a live feed of the west coast launch pad.
  • ( Ng Han Guan / Associated Press ) - A female traffic coordinator salutes near North Korean women dressed in traditional attire walking into an underpass in Pyongyang, North Korea, Wednesday, April 11, 2012.
  • ( David Guttenfelder / Associated Press ) - A North Korean choir performs on the steps of a public building in Pyongyang, North Korea Wednesday, April 11, 2012.
  • ( Kyodo News / Associated Press ) - Japan Self-Defense Force members work on a PAC-3 surface to air missile unit deployed at the Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s Chinen Sub Base in Nanjo in Japan’s southern most prefecture of Okinawa Wednesday, April 11, 2012, in preparation for North Korea’s rocket launch, expected to take place sometime between April 12-16.
( David Guttenfelder / Associated Press ) - A North Korean man looks down from a balcony at North Korea’s space agency’s General Launch Command Center on the outskirts of Pyongyang Wednesday, April 11, 2012. Engineers are pumping fuel into a rocket that is set to carry a satellite into space, officials at the North Korean space agency’s central command center said Wednesday, showing reporters a live feed of the west coast launch pad.


The nation’s leader, Kim Jong Un, was named first secretary of the ruling Workers’ Party, a newly created post. He also succeeded his late father as chairman of the Central Military Commission, which formulates the party’s military policies, and was elevated to standing member of the powerful Political Bureau, the party’s highest-level decision-making body.
Late longtime leader Kim Jong Il, meanwhile, was granted the posthumous title of “eternal general secretary” at the special one-day party conference Wednesday.
Kim Jong Un’s formal ascension to top party posts, nearly four months after his father’s death, comes during a week of events leading up to celebrations Sunday marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of his grandfather, late President Kim Il Sung.
The centennial is a major milestone in the nation Kim Il Sung founded in 1948, and the streets of the capital, Pyongyang, were awash with new posters, banners and the national flag. Outside the city’s war museum and the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium, women in traditional Korean dress gathered in clusters, practicing for this week’s events.
North Korea has thrown open its doors to dozens of journalists from around the world to report on the events this week designed not only to honor Kim Il Sung but also to demonstrate unity as Kim Jong Un consolidates power.
One of the marquee events is a satellite launch poised to take place as early as Thursday that has raised international concern.
Space officials call the launch of the Unha-3 rocket, mounted with an Earth observation satellite, a “gift” to Kim Il Sung. They said Wednesday that the final step of injecting fuel into the three-stage rocket was under way in the coastal hamlet of Tongchang-ri.
“The launch of the Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite is the pride of our nation and of our people,” Rim Kwang Myong, a mathematics major at Kim Il Sung University, told The Associated Press.
The planned launch was a focus of discussions among foreign ministers from the Group of Eight leading industrialized democracies.
“I think we all share a strong interest in stability on the Korean peninsula, and we will be discussing how best to achieve that as well,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told her colleagues Wednesday in Washington.
A live feed Wednesday at the General Command Center in the outskirts of Pyongyang showed the rocket on the launch pad covered with a tarp to protect the satellite from the wind.
Paek Chang Ho, chief of the command center, said the rocket was ready for liftoff as soon as engineers are given the green light. North Korea has informed international aviation, maritime and telecommunications authorities that the launch would take place between Thursday and Monday.

Because liquid rocket fuel is highly volatile and corrosive, its injection into the rocket is usually one of the final steps in the pre-launch process, experts say. But the weather, and particularly the wind, could force delays.
The United States, Japan, Britain and others say the launch would constitute a provocation and would violate U.N. Security Council resolutions banning North Korea from developing its nuclear and missile programs.


Experts say the Unha-3 carrier is similar to the type of rocket that could be used to fire a missile mounted with a nuclear warhead to strike the U.S. or other targets.


Paek denied Wednesday that the launch was anything but a peaceful civilian bid to send a satellite into space. He said the Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite is designed to send back images and data that will be used for weather forecasts and agricultural surveys.




“Some parties insist our peaceful space program is a missile test,” he told foreign reporters given an exclusive tour of the nation’s main satellite command center. “We don’t really care what the outside world thinks. This launch is critical to developing our space program and improving our economy.”
Clinton said earlier in the week that the launch would be a direct threat to regional security and that the U.S. would pursue “appropriate action” at the Security Council if North Korea goes ahead with it.
This launch would be the country’s third attempt since 1998. Two previous rockets, also named Unha, were mounted with experimental communications satellites and sent from the east coast.
North Korean officials say the 2009 satellite reached orbit, but the U.S. and other outside observers say they have seen no evidence that it did.
The new titles Kim Jong Un has received are among a slate of political appointments and promotions expected this week. He was unveiled as father Kim Jong Il’s choice as successor at a similar party conference in September 2010.
Kim Jong Un already has been declared supreme commander of the armed forces, and is expected to gain other new titles formalizing his position as “supreme leader” of North Korea’s people and party.
Delegates also approved a reshuffle of party leadership, electing a new generation of officials to key posts.
Party member Choe Ryong Hae emerged as a rising figure. He was named to the powerful Presidium of the Central Committee’s Political Bureau, joining Kim Jong Un and three high-ranking officials serving on the executive body.
Choe, who is in his early 60sh and recently was promoted to vice marshal, also was named a vice chairman of the party’s Central Military Commission, KCNA said.
Six others were named to the Political Bureau of the Central Committee, including Jang Song Thaek, who is married to Kim Jong Il’s sister, Kim Kyong Hui.
The immortalization of Kim Jong Il has provided a glimpse into how North Korea will treat the nation’s second hereditary succession. After Kim Il Sung died in 1994, he was declared the country’s “eternal president,” and Kim Jong Il ruled as chairman of the National Defense Commission.
Kim Jong Un could be promoted to chairman of the National Defense Commission, said Peter Beck, a Korea specialist at the Asia Foundation.
However, even after his new titles are revealed, much about North Korea’s leadership may remain murky, analysts said.
“North Korea is less monolithic than it looks from the outside, and, particularly as a new top leadership establishes itself in the wake of Kim Jong Il’s death, there will be as many questions raised as answers provided by the political choreography,” said John Delury, an assistant professor at Yonsei University in Seoul who has made several trips to North Korea in recent years.
___
Associated Press writers Tim Sullivan in Pyongyang, and Foster Klug and Sam Kim in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.

North Korea Rocket Launch: Complete Coverage

Date: 11 April 2012 Time: 04:38 PM ET