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N. Korea's Kim orders launch of military reconnaissance satellite as planned

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简介This photo released by the North's official Korean Central News Agency shows North Korean leader Kim...

This photo released by the North's official Korean Central News Agency shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, right, and his daughter, known as Ju-ae, visiting the North's space development agency, April 18. Yonhap
This photo released by the North's official Korean Central News Agency shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, right, and his daughter, known as Ju-ae, visiting the North's space development agency, April 18. Yonhap

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said Pyongyang has completed building its first military spy satellite and ordered final preparations to launch the satellite as planned, the North's state media reported Wednesday, in a move that is expected to further heighten tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

Kim made the remarks during an on-site inspection to the North's space development agency a day earlier, as Pyongyang has vowed to complete preparations of the launch of a military spy satellite by the end of this month, according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

Kim "set forth the militant task to organize a non-permanent satellite-launching preparatory committee to make sure that the military reconnaissance satellite No. 1 completed as of April will be launched at the planned date, speed up its final preparations and firmly establish the satellite intelligence-gathering capability by deploying several reconnaissance satellites in different orbits in succession in the future," the KCNA reported.

Kim also stressed that the planned launch and operation of the reconnaissance satellite is the "most crucial primary task" for the North to strengthen its military effectiveness of war deterrence against what it called schemes by South Korea and the United States to bolster their military posture against the North.

In December last year, North Korea said it had conducted an "important final-stage" test at its rocket launching facility for putting a military reconnaissance satellite into orbit.

During the visit, which marked Kim's first visit to the agency since March last year, the North Korean leader justified the possession of the reconnaissance satellite as a means of self-defense that can "never be abandoned."

During the visit, which marked Kim's first visit to the agency since March last year, the North Korean leader justified the possession of the reconnaissance satellite as a means of self-defense that can "never be abandoned."

"Possession of such a satellite is a primary task to be indispensably fulfilled to bolster up the armed forces of the DPRK that can never be abandoned, missed and changed, and belongs to its sovereign and legitimate right to self-defense in view of the requirements of the recent security environment on the Korean peninsula and tackling of the long-term threats," Kim said.

DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, North Korea's official name.

This photo released by the North's official Korean Central News Agency shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, right, and his daughter, known as Ju-ae, visiting the North's space development agency, April 18. Yonhap
This photo released by the North's official Korean Central News Agency shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, second from right, and his daughter, known as Ju-ae, visiting the North's space development agency, April 18. Yonhap

A KCNA photo showed a screen displaying the purported military satellite ― a hexagon-shaped structure carrying four solar panels. Analysts estimated it could weigh 200-300 kilograms.

Kim's directive at the agency to produce "standardized and reliable carrier rockets on a full scale" raised questions over what launch platform the North would employ for its first spy satellite liftoff.

Chang Young-keun, a missile expert at the Korea Aerospace University raised the possibility that the North could use a new space launch vehicle or a solid-propellant rocket ― used in its recent test-launch of a Hwasong-18 intercontinental ballistic missile.

While it was not mentioned in the report, photos carried by the KCNA showed that Kim was accompanied by his daughter, Ju-ae, rather formally dressed in black suit pants and a light beige blouse.

Wednesday's report comes amid heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula as the North has not responded to routine cross-border calls through inter-Korean liaison and military communication lines since April 7.

Pyongyang has recently conducted other major weapons tests, such as the launch of the Hwasong-18 solid-fuel ICBM this month and what it claimed to be underwater nuclear attack drones, in protest against combined springtime military drills between South Korea and the U.S. (Yonhap)

Against this backdrop, some observers said the North may attempt to launch the satellite ahead of President Yoon Suk Yeol's upcoming state visit to the U.S. later this month.

"There is a high possibility that North Korea may attempt a launch around April 23-24, on the basis that weather conditions are favorable, to show off that it has the upper hand on the Korean Peninsula issue by putting it on the table during the South Korea-U.S. summit," Yang Mu-jin, president of the University of North Korean Studies, said.

Some observers, however, projected that it will take a few more months for the North to put the satellite into orbit given the time needed for technical preparations. (Yonhap)

This photo released by the North's official Korean Central News Agency shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, right, and his daughter, known as Ju-ae, visiting the North's space development agency, April 18. Yonhap
This photo released by the North's official Korean Central News Agency shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, second from right, and his daughter, known as Ju-ae, visiting the North's space development agency, April 18. Yonhap

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