MANILA, Philippines – North Korea assured the world on Tuesday, April 10, that its latest rocket will take a “safe trajectory” once it launches later this week.
The country’s space development department is set to complete the assembly of the Unha-3 rocket by installing the satellite payload later in the day.
“We are expecting to complete assembly by today,” Ryu Kum-Chol, deputy director of the space development department at the communist state’s Committee for Space Technology, told foreign journalists in Pyongyang.
Ryu also insisted that debris from the launch, which is scheduled between April 12 and 16 to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of North Korea’s founding leader, posed no danger to countries in the region, including the Philippines.
“We’ve chosen a safe trajectory. The first stage will fall 100 miles (160 kilometers) from land, and the second stage 120 miles from land (in the Philippines),” he said.
But in case of any problem with the trajectory, the official said that the rocket was “capable of self-destruction” from ground control.
Impoverished but nuclear-armed North Korea says the rocket will propel the 100-kilogram (220-pound) Kwangmyongsong-3 (Shining Star) satellite into orbit to collect data on forests and natural resources within its territory.
PH government ‘overreacting’
Meanwhile, activist group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan criticized what they see as an “overreaction” of the Philippine government to Pyongyang’s launch.
Bayan said the government has “uncritically” joined the United States in “hyping the so-called nuclear threat” of the launch.
“While safety precautions against rocket debris are ok, the reaction of the Philippine government is more in line with the hype being stirred by the US in relation to so-called ballistic missile tests that the North Koreans are allegedly undertaking,” the group said in a statement, released Tuesday.
The group said the US is using “the specter of nuclear weapons” to “deny” North Korea the right to launch a satellite for peaceful use.
Bayan also said the rocket launch is also being used to “justify continued US military presence in the Philippines.”
“The PH government is up in arms over North Korea’s rocket test, but is eerily silent about the use of US drones in Philippine airspace. The PH government has not even sought any explanation for the US government’s secret storage of nuclear weapons in the Philippines during the last century,” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr., was quoted as saying.
Close allies’ concern, warning
Also on Tuesday, April 10, two of North Korea’s closest allies warned the secretive state against continuing with a planned rocket launch.
Both China and Russia, the Hermit Kingdom’s closest allies, stated that the launch could have serious consequences.
Russia, for its part, said the rocket launch showed disregard for UN Security Council resolutions on the Stalinist state’s nuclear and weapons programs.
“Pyongyang’s decision to conduct the launch of an earth satellite is viewed (by Russia) as an example of disregard for decisions adopted by the UN Security Council,” Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told the RIA Novosti news agency.
He also stressed that Russia supported further political dialogue with the isolated regime that could help resolve the long-standing dispute.
“The way of out of the situation should be sought on the political and diplomatic track,” Lukashevich said.
The Russian army’s general staff said it would closely track the rocket amid fears in Moscow that its trajectory could take it over the Kuril Islands off the coast of Japan.
A senior military source said Russian space defense forces would be tracking the rocket “at all stages of its flight, up to the satellite’s detachment.”
The source told Interfax that Russia also had the capability to determine the satellite’s “characteristics and assignments.”
Meanwhile, China called on all parties to “exercise restraint” and avoid an escalation of tensions on the Korean peninsula ahead of a planned rocket launch by North Korea.
The comments, at a foreign ministry briefing, came after the US State Department said it was urging China to press North Korea not to go ahead with the launch, seen as a disguised missile test.
“We call on parties concerned to stay calm, exercise restraint and avoid escalation of tensions on the Korean peninsula,” said ministry spokesman Liu Weimin.
The poor but nuclear-armed North attracted international condemnation after it announced a plan to launch a satellite sometime from April 12 to 16, to mark the centenary of the birth of late founding president Kim Il-Sung.
Pyongyang insists the launch is a peaceful space project, but the United States and South Korea view it as a disguised missile test in breach of UN resolutions.
South Korea has vowed to shoot down the rocket if it strays into its territory. Japan has said it may do likewise.
China and Russia re both members of the stalled six-party negotiations on the North Korean nuclear crisis. Russia enjoys some access to the state’s leaders thanks to the two nations’ Soviet-era ties, while China is considered to have the most influence with North Korea. – With reports from the Agence France-Presse