North Korea hasn’t yet launched its “observation satellite,” but it’s already insisting it has the right to remain unpunished if it does so as expected this week.
In an op-ed, Kim Myong Chol, an “unofficial spokesman of North Korea,” declaredthat “the Kim Jong-un administration does not share the view that the planned satellite launch imperils the February 29 North Korea-U.S. nuclear agreement. The North Koreans are of the firm view that a Cold Warrior mindset has misled the Americans to mistake the launch of an observation satellite that of a ballistic missile test.”
The author lists four reasons to “disregard the U.S. charges as unfounded and go ahead with the launch.”
“The satellite launch has long been planned as part of nationwide celebrations for Kim Il-sung's centenary. No one can stand in its way.”
“Firing a satellite into orbit is pursuant to the will of the late, great fatherly leader Kim Jong-il. For the Korean people, there is no disobeying it.”
“The Kim Jong-un administration is only exercising its inalienable right of sovereignty. For Pyongyang to yield to outside pressure and demur on the planned satellite would suggest that North Koreans are not as proud a people as they are.”
“The payload mounted on the Unha (Milky Way) rocket is a polar-orbiting observation satellite. It is designed to transmit important prospecting data on the underground resources of the Korean Peninsula, as well as weather and mapping data.”
Jang Myong Jin, general manager of the launch facility where the rocket will be launched from, cited the U.N. space treaty in noting that: “Our country has the right and also the obligation to develop satellites and launching vehicles.”
“No matter what others say, we are doing this for peaceful purposes,” he added.
Jang also denied the launch was a cover for any sort of missile test. “During the recent senior-level North Korea-U.S. talks, our side made clear there’s only a moratorium on long-range missile launches, not on satellite launches…The U.S. was well aware of this.”
Such pronouncements cast the missile launch as being largely for domestic consumption and scientific research, yet the reality is that the test would also allow the North Koreans to gage the range and accuracy of their missile program. Japan has said that any missile that flies over its territory will be shot down.
Relations between the U.S. and North Korea had looked to be on the uptick with a February deal under which Pyongyang “agreed to implement a moratorium on long-range missile launches, nuclear tests, and nuclear activities at Yongbyon, including uranium enrichment activities” in exchange for food aid.
But the satellite launch, coupled with new reports that North Korea may soon also test a nuclear device, are quickly banishing any of the optimism that there might have been for a fresh start following the death of Kim Jong-il.