North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un reportedly encouraged the nation’s scientists to develop more rockets for the launching of alleged “satellites” into space, less than a month after receiving wide condemnation from the free world, and even some notes of concern from China, over a rocket launch.
At a banquet Saturday to congratulate the scientists that had developed the rocket and Kwangmyongsong-4 satellite system launched last weekend, North Korean news agencies report that Kim encouraged them to work on more similar projects. Kim allegedly “called for turning out scientific research to hit a higher target with the present great success as a springboard for greater victory and, thus, launching more working satellites,” according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, citing the Korean Central News Agency run out of Pyongyang.
Kim allegedly explained the reasoning behind launching the satellite as a reaction to “the hostile forces… getting evermore frantic to suffocate” North Korea, possibly referring to the extensive criticism following a nuclear test that Kim’s regime has insisted was the detonation of a hydrogen bomb. “The successful H-bomb test is a special event that settled the pent-up grudge of the fellow countrymen and dealt a merciless blow at the Korean nation’s sworn enemy, the U.S. imperialists working with bloodshot eyes to launch a nuclear war against the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea],” North Korea said then.
The satellite, he claimed Saturday, was a “telling blow to the enemies seeking to block the advance of our country.”
“The credit for the present great success goes to the strength of close relationship between the Party and you, scientists, in which the former believes in the latter and vice versa,” North Korean newspaper Rodong Sinmun quotes Kim as saying. While praising the scientists, he allegedly told them “the course of conquering space was for the purpose of the revolution and independence rather than for that of science.”
Western observers doubt there is much reason to celebrate the launching of the Kwangmyongsong-4 satellite last week. For days, scientists in the United States noted that the satellite appeared to be “tumbling” in space, rendering it unable to send any data back to earth. By Wednesday, an American official confirmed that North Korea had finally “got the tumbling under control” and lodged it in its rightful position in space, but officials still have no evidence the satellite is sending any information to North Korea.
North Korean officials have claimed the purpose of the satellite to be for “earth observation,” particularly for weather monitoring, though there is no evidence the satellite is doing much at all. This has led some to suspect the purpose of launching the satellite was to test the rocket it was affixed to, which could be weaponized and used on earth against nations Pyongyang opposes.
The Rodong Sinmun published an editorial denying these claims this week. “The U.S. is busy with a malignant smear campaign intended to deny the DPRK’s joining the advanced ranks of nuclear weapons states,” the article reads; “Whenever an opportunity presents itself, the U.S. claims that the DPRK had access to nuclear weapons illegally and that is disturbing peace in the Korean Peninsula and the region.” “The DPRK had access to nuclear weapons entirely because of the U.S.,” it concludes, decrying the alleged “U.S. undisguised nuclear threat to the DPRK.”
North Korea’s recent spurt of activity has alarmed its neighbor to the south. Seoul is urging the international community to respond to both the satellite and the nuclear blast in January with harsher sanctions, forcing North Korea to experience real consequences for its actions. “We have to be determined to carry out Kim Jong-un’s termination and if we make it so, we only have four to five years to carry out the plan,” Ha Tae-kyung, a Saenuri Party legislator, said in a radio interview this week. Ha suggested that, if world powers do not assassinate Kim Jong-un, he “may be the 21st century’s Hitler with the nuclear weapons in his hands.” “Terminating Kim will make everyone happy, 70 million Koreans will be happy and so will China and Japan as well. Then why shouldn’t we carry it out?” he added.
Ha’s words echo the description of life in North Korea provided two years ago by defector Yeonmi Park, who escaped North Korea with her mother through China. “It’s the same thing as the Holocaust,” the then-21-year-old said. “We ignored it, and we said ‘never again,’ but now it’s happening again, and we are ignoring it.”
In addition to calling for the launching of more rockets, U.S. Director of National Security James Clapper asserted in his annual threat assessment released this week that the nation has begun enriching plutonium once again, perhaps to make a new nuclear weapon. The Yongbyon nuclear facility “has been operating the reactor long enough so that it could begin to recover plutonium from the reactor’s spent fuel within a matter of weeks to months,” according to the report.