North Korea Vows Satellite Launch, with Rocket That Could Reach Hawaii

Article excerpt

North Korea says it wants to peacefully use space. Analysts say the regime wants to test a missile that could deliver a nuclear warhead to the US.

North Korea vowed today to launch a satellite from a long-range missile despite the protests of what it called "hostile forces" including the US, Japan, and South Korea.

The North's determination to go ahead with the launch around the time of the April 15 centennial of the birth of founding leader Kim Il-sung most likely sets the course for another cycle of international recriminations while the North refuses to talk seriously about giving up its nuclear program.

North Korea defended its defiance of demands by the US and others to cancel the launch as exercise of its "right to use space for peaceful purposes." As explained by Pyongyang's Korean Central News Agency, "The satellite launch for scientific researches....can by no means be a monopoly of specified countries."

Officials and analysts alike, however, strongly doubt if the North's goal is to launch a satellite. The obvious purpose, they say, is for North Korea to test the latest version of a missile with a range that could deliver a small nuclear warhead as far as Hawaii, Alaska - or even the US west coast.

"We all know their purpose is to have missiles," says Choi Jin- wook, long-time North Korea expert at the Korea Institute for National Unification. "I'm not sure they if they can put a satellite into orbit."

If anything seems certain, however, it is that the launch will undermine the stalled six-party talks on reaching a deal for North Korea to abandon its nuclear program. The talks, chaired by China, including envoys from the US, Japan, Russia, and North and South Korea, were last held in Beijing in December 2008.

Hopes were high for resumption of the talks after US and North Korean envoys, meeting in Beijing, reached agreement on February 29 for North Korea to abide by a moratorium on missile and nuclear tests. …


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