North Korea has announced a plan to send a satellite into space to honor its founder. The US government says such a launch would be a threat to regional security.
North Korea had announced on Friday it would launch a "working" satellite into orbit to honor the 100th birthday of the nation's founding leader, despite a United Nations ban on ballistic missile launches.
"The DPRK is to launch a working satellite ... manufactured by itself with indigenous technology to mark the 100th birth anniversary of President Kim Il-Sung," the official KCNA said quoting a spokesman for the Korean Committee for Space Technology.
The report added that the launch would "greatly encourage the army and people ... in the building of a thriving nation." The operation was scheduled to take place between April 12 and 16.
The UN condemned North Korea's previous launches of ballistic missiles and Japan's Jiji news agency quoted a senior official with the Japanese Foreign Ministry saying the satellite launch would violate a Security Council resolution.
The KCNA report said the operation "will strictly abide by relevant international regulations and usage concerning the launch of scientific and technological satellites for peaceful purposes."
The US government released a statement denouncing the launch.
"Such a missile launch would pose a threat to regional security and would also be inconsistent with North Korea's recent undertaking to refrain from long-range missile launches," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
"North Korea's announcement that it plans to conduct a missile launch in direct violation of its international obligations is highly provocative," she said.
On February 29, North Korea had agreed to suspend long-range missile tests in exchange for 240,000 tons of food aid provided by the United States.
Food aid jeopardized
"The window for the launch is important in terms of the domestic politics of the North," Daniel Pinkston, an expert on North Korea's weapons programs at the International Crisis Group, told the Associated Press. He said the launch would underscore North Korea's military capabilities and reinforce Kim's status as an inexperienced leader.
The launch also jeopardizes the recent food aid deal with the U.S., he said.
"I can't see how the U.S. is going to deliver this food aid," he said. "I think this is going to kill it."
Current leader Kim Jong-Un took over power in the isolated Communist country after his father, Kim Jong-Il, died last December.
acb/sjt (AFP, AP, Reuters)