Foreigners, media invited to satellite launch

North Korea says it will invite international observers and foreign media to witness the upcoming launch of its Kwangmyongsong 3 satellite, state-run media said on Saturday.

The launch, which is due to take place between April 12 and 15, is expected to become one of the high points of the country’s celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung on April 15. The invitation of foreign observers to see the launch increases the pressure on North Korea to ensure the launch goes perfectly — a launch malfunction would be embarrassing for the country, especially if the foreign media is allowed to broadcast the launch live.

Even without a live broadcast, any problems would mar the April 15 celebrations and their coverage overseas.

Here’s what the Voice of Korea’s English-language shortwave broadcast said on Saturday: [audio:|titles=120317-vok]

“Report of the Korea Central News Agency. As part of the preparations for the launch of earth observation satellite Kwangmyongsong 3, the relevant organs of the DPRK have informed the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Maritime Organization, the International Telecommunication Union and others of necessary materials according to the international rules and procedures.

The Korean Committee for Space Technology will invite authoritative foreign experts in the fields of space science and technology and reporters so that they can visit the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, the General Satellite Tracking Station and other places and see the launch of the satellite. Pyongyang, March 17, Juche 101 or 2012.”

The launch plans have been widely condemned by the international community. While North Korea claims the satellite has a civilian role, the Unha-3 rocket launcher (pictured, right) is believed to share a lot of technology with the country’s long-range ballistic missiles so the launch will double as a test of this technology.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies has more on this in its post “North Korean rocket may shoot down Leap Day deal.”

In that post, Mark Fitzpatrick, director of the IISS’ Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Programme, explains that the problem lies in a vague ban on “long range missile launches.”

Space launches differ from ballistic-missile tests in their purpose and trajectory. Where space launches only need to go up, ballistic missiles must also come down, to securely deliver their payload, and need to survive atmospheric re-entry. The 2011 IISS Strategic Dossier on North Korean Security Challenges describes the differences in detail (p. 155). But because satellite-launch rockets and ballistic missiles share the same bodies, engines, launch sites and other development processes, they are intricately linked. The satellite launch also provides missile-development information regarding propulsion, guidance and operational aspects. — IISS, March 16, 2012.

North Korea has brushed off the criticism and says the launch is a “legitimate right” of the country. An editorial on the state-run Korea Central News Agency on Saturday said:

The hostile forces including the U.S., Japan and south Korea let loose outbursts that it will be a “missile launch”, “a serious provocative act of threatening the peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia” and “a violation of the UNSC ‘resolution’.”

This is, in a nutshell, a base move to deny the DPRK’s right to use space for peaceful purposes and encroach upon its sovereignty as it is typical of the hostile policy toward it.

The peaceful development and use of space is a universally recognized legitimate right of a sovereign state. The satellite launch for scientific researches into the peaceful development and use of space and economic development can by no means be a monopoly of specified countries. — KCNA, March 16, 2012.

At this stage, it looks like North Korea will go ahead with the launch despite the protests. Here’s more from Voice of Korea on reaction inside the country:


As you can hear, the launch is being talked up as a major technological step for the country.

An affiliate of 38 North