NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 49 (April 9, 2009) |
*** TOPIC OF THE WEEK (Part 1)
North Korea Launches Long-range Rocket, Claims Success
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- As announced beforehand, North Korea fired a long-range rocket on April 5, drawing an international outcry as many suspect the launch was a test of the socialist state's long-range missile technology. North Korea claimed the rocket successfully put a satellite into orbit, though hours after the launch the U.S. military, using the term "missile," said its payload dropped into the Pacific Ocean.
The rocket took off from a military base located in the northeast at 11:30 KST and flew over northern Japan. Debris from the first-stage splashed down in waters off Japan's northwestern coast, while the second and third stages fell into the Pacific Ocean, according to U.S. military and intelligence sources.
South Korea described the launch as a failure, although experts said the North appeared to have upgraded its missile technology and capabilities considerably. The launch demonstrated the longest-range rocket the reclusive state has ever developed -- flying at least 2,700 kilometers, according to media reports.
North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command officials issued a joint statement contradicting the North's claims of success. "No object entered orbit and no debris fell on Japan," they said.
The North's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that the rocket lifted off at 11:20 from its Musudan-ri base and that the satellite entered orbit at 11:29.
North Korea said its satellite was orbiting normally and transmitting "immortal revolutionary songs" in praise of the country's current and former leaders. "Our scientists and technicians succeeded in putting the Kwangmyongsong-2 satellite into orbit on the delivery rocket Unha-2," the KCNA reported. "The satellite is moving normally in its orbit."
The Kwangmyongsong-2 satellite is now following an oval orbit 490km at its closest and 1,426kmn at its farthest points from the earth, it said, adding a full orbit of the globe takes 104 minutes and 12 seconds.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il observed the launch of the North's rocket and celebrated its success at a satellite command center, the KCNA said later the same day.
The North Korean leader, accompanied by Secretary Jon Pyong-ho and First-vice Department Director Ju Kyu-chang of the central committee of the North Korea's ruling Workers Party, expressed great satisfaction with the scientists and technicians who "successfully launched the satellite with their own wisdom and technology," the KCNA said.
Kim also stressed "the need to bring about a new turn in conquering outer space and making peaceful use of it."
North Korea's state media heaped lavish praise on leader Kim Jong-il for guiding the launch, ahead of his expected reelection in an important parliamentary meeting on April 9.
Kim "was choked with sobs" as he thought of the poor citizens who may have been better off using the money that instead went to the April 5 launch, Rodong Sinmun, the North's main newspaper, said in an article on April 7.
Weeks before the launch, North Korea notified international aviation and maritime authorities of the launch and warned that any foreign attempt to shoot it down would lead to a war on the Korean Peninsula.
The North timed just ahead of the first meeting of its newly elected parliament -- in an apparent bid to boost Kim's standing. During the parliamentary meeting, new lawmakers are expected to reappoint Kim as chairman of the National Defense Commission, the highest decision-making body that oversees the country's 1.19 million-strong military.
"Ask this to the conscience of mankind: Is there a country like (North Korea) that has successfully sent a satellite with its own technology 100 percent while under the worst condition of being shut off and pressured by imperialists?" Rodong Sinmun said.
"The successful launch of the satellite Kwangmyongsong-2 was a great historic event heralding the victorious advent of a great, prosperous and powerful nation," it said, referring to the North's campaign to rebuild its economy by 2012.
The newspaper portrayed Kim as strong yet tender-hearted, saying he felt sorry for making poor people sacrifice for the satellite launch, a possible indication that there might be internal skepticism about the costly space project.
"Even though he has brought this overflowing victory, he felt sorry for not being able to spend more money on the people's livelihoods and was chocked with sobs, saying, 'Our people will still understand,'" the paper quoted Kim as saying.
The latest rocket launch, Rodong Sinmun noted, achieved another "historic feat" for the country, reminiscent of its first satellite launch in 1998 and an underground nuclear test in 2006. Such feats are a demonstration of North Korean power to "enemies," it said.
Two days later on April 7, North Korea aired the footage of its rocket launch. North Korea televised footage of its rocket launch, as well as the first video footage of leader Kim Jong-il aired since his reported stroke in August.
"The Kwangmyongsong-2 satellite has been succesfully launched" an anchor said over images of the satellite command center and the launch. The Unha-2 rocket bearing the word Joson, was painted white in a noteworthy change from the country's first satellite, which was painted black and looked like a missile.
Before the rocket footage was aired at home, the North released it to APTN, the television network of the U.S.-based Associated Press, which has a branch in Pyongyang, in what might have been a possible gesture to the American government, which has called the launch "provocative."