North Korea said Monday that it plans to launch a rocket at a time of its choosing as it has the right to conduct space research, cementing speculation over a provocation by the country near its key anniversary.
North Korea’s National Aerospace Development Administration “is pushing forward in the final phase the development of a new earth observation satellite for weather forecast,” the Korean Central News Agency said.
“The world will clearly see a series of satellites of (North) Korea soaring into the sky at the times and locations determined by the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea,” the KCNA reported in an English statement, without elaborating.
The report came amid growing speculation that the North is expected to launch a long-range missile around Oct. 10, the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party.
The North has claimed it has the right to conduct space research by test-firing what it called rockets, which outside analysts view as a cover for missile tests.
“Space development for peaceful purposes is a sovereign state’s legitimate right recognized by international law and the Party and the people of the DPRK are fully determined to exercise this right no matter what others may say about it,” the KCNA said.
The DPRK is the acronym of North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
In Washington, the State Department said it is aware of the North’s statement, but declined any further comment.
“We have seen the statement. We will not speculate on the timing of the statement, or any possible provocative actions by the DPRK (North Korea),” State Department spokesperson Anna Richey-Allen said in comments sent to Yonhap News Agency.
The North’s missile and nuclear programs have flared up tension on the Korean Peninsula amid concerns that it may soon develop the technology to mount a nuclear warhead on long-range ballistic missiles capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.
South Korea’s defense ministry said in a report to the National Assembly last week that there is a possibility that the North could fire a missile to commemorate the anniversary as it is currently finishing construction at its rocket launch facility in Dongchang-ri on its west coast border. Read more