South Korea’s YTN reports North Korea may launch its Kwangmyeongseong-3 rocket on April 14th, weather permitting. The North is expected to hold a parliamentary session on April 13th to anoint Kim Jong-un and celebrate its founder Kim Il-sung’s 100th birthday on April 15th. YTN reports, the North is allowing international media to arrive on April 12th.
Meanwhile, Yonhap News cites Japanese media that Pyongyang plans to finalize preparing its launch pad this weekend.
Below is a press release the Center circulated on March 16th upon the North’s announcement:
MEDIA ADVISORY: North Korea’s Planned April Rocket Launch
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 16, 2012
CONTACT: Bridget Nolan, Director of Communications, 707-287-5739
Lt. General Robert Gard, Senior Military Fellow, firstname.lastname@example.org
Duyeon Kim, Deputy Director of Nuclear Non-Proliferation, email@example.com
(WASHINGTON) – The Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation today criticized the North Korean announcement of a rocket test as a “clear violation” of previous agreements.
North Korea announced on March 16, 2012 that it will launch the earth observation satellite Kwangmyongsong-3, carried by the long-range rocket Unha-3, between April 12 and 16. The birthday and centennial of the founder of the North Korean regime, the late Kim Il-sung, is on April 15th.
“The April test would be a clear violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1874 and the February U.S.-North Korea agreement,” said Duyeon Kim, Deputy Director of Nuclear Non-Proliferation at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, “and the test is bound to spur international condemnation and action.”
In February, Pyongyang agreed to a temporary moratorium on nuclear and missile testing, as well as freezing its uranium enrichment activities and inviting IAEA inspectors back to the Yongbyon nuclear facility. Washington agreed in return to provide 240,000 tons of nutritional assistance.
“The technology used to put a satellite in orbit could be applied to the development of a long-range ’missile’,” Lt. General Robert Gard, the Center’s Senior Military Fellow, observed.
The Kwangmyongsong-2 was tested in April 2009, resulting in failure, prior to North Korea’s second nuclear test. In reaction, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1874 sanctioning North Korea.
The (North) Korean Committee for Space Technology claims it has chosen a safe flight orbit to prevent rocket debris from impacting neighboring countries.
“Unlike 2009, North Korea will launch from a newly constructed site pointed south and not east, toward South Korea, Guam and Okinawa,” Kim pointed out, “The desire to test could be driven by domestic reasons – the North probably wants to start its ‘strong and prosperous nation’ year with a bang, celebrate Kim Il-sung’s centennial, and consolidate Kim Jong-un’s power base. There may also be an element of sending a strong message abroad to gain leverage in negotiations, although the North will deny it’s testing a missile.”
Kim warned, “If North Korea’s past behavior is any indication, a third nuclear test is a matter of time, especially in a year that’s particularly important to the North.”
General Gard expressed the hope that “North Korea would be able to launch its ‘strong and prosperous nation’ year without launching a long-range rocket in violation of the agreement it just concluded to suspend missile tests, among other actions, in return for food aid.”
He added, “It is in the interest of both parties to build on this first step to return to negotiations and begin a step-by-step process toward a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.”