North Korea’s successful launch of a weather satellite on Wednesday has sparked new concerns that the threat posed by the country is greater than previously believed. Many of also discussed whether the launch marks a breach of United Nations sanctions imposed upon the state to prevent its development of nuclear and missile-based technologies.
A rocket was successfully launched Wednesday at 1 a.m. GMT, with North Korean news sources reporting that the launch was intended to put a new weather satellite into orbit (It reportedly succeeded in that aim). “The second version of satellite Kwangmyongsong-3 successfully lifted off from the Sohae Space Center by carrier rocket Unha-3 on Wednesday,” the Korean Central News Agency, the state’s official mouthpiece, told viewers, adding that “the satellite entered its preset orbit.” The Unha-3 rocket is estimated to have a range of approximately 10,000 kilometers, or roughly 6,213 miles – a distance that could put the rocket within the vicinities of Los Angeles considering the rocket’s burn-out time.
According to the KCNA, the launch was intended to celebrate the December 2011 death of former leader Kim Jong-il, as well as the centenary of Kim Il-sung, Jong-il’s father (and grandfather to current leader Kim Jong-un). “Scientists and technicians brilliantly carried out [Kim Jong-il's] behests to launch a scientific and technological satellite in 2012, the year marking the 100th birth anniversary of President Kim Il Sung,” the agency explained, adding that the satellite it put into orbit was entirely necessary. “The scientific and technological satellite is fitted with survey and communications devices essential for the observation of the earth,” apparently.
Other countries may not agree about that last part. The United States lost little time declaring the launch a “provocative” breach of UN regulations, with Japan’s UN envoy calling for a Security Council meeting in the aftermath of the news. Both the U.S. and South Korea are apparently pushing towards issuing a new UN resolution against North Korea in the wake of the launch, which was seen as a direct violation of an existing resolution against North Korea’s development of propulsion-based technology. Meanwhile, China and Russia are expected to use their veto power to ensure that this doesn’t happen.
Part of the reason for the international community’s concern over this development is because U.S. intelligence has connected North Korea with Iran, with newspapers from both Japan and South Korea placing Iranian observers in North Korea at the time of the launch (Iran has denied such reports). A spokesman for the North Korean foreign ministry has talked down such concerns, declaring in a statement released to the KCNA that “the attempt to see our satellite launch as a long-range missile launch for military purposes comes from hostile perception that tries to designate us a cause for security tension.”
Unsurprisingly, such reassurances fell on somewhat deaf ears; the UN Security Council is expected to stay in session regarding the matter throughout the week.