North Korea Says It Is in 'Final Phase' of Developing New Satellite


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North Korea said it was in the final phase of developing a new satellite, fueling speculation it would launch a long-range rocket as early as a major political anniversary in October.

Such a move would ratchet up tensions on the peninsula because the United Nations Security Council bans the country from testing ballistic-rocket technology. While Pyongyang says its long-range rocket launches are for peaceful purposes, the U.S. and other countries see them as part of an effort to develop an intercontinental missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead.

North Korea celebrates the 70th anniversary of the founding of its ruling Workers’ Party on Oct. 10, an event outside observers say may be marked by a long-range rocket firing. South Korea’s foreign minister said last week that a launch is possible, although analysts who have studied recent satellite images say there are no clear signs of preparations for a launch at Pyongyang’s main long-range rocket base.

The director of North Korea’s space agency said scientists are “pushing forward at a final phase [for] the development of a new earth observation satellite,” according to a report published late Monday by Pyongyang’s state news agency. “The world will clearly see a series of satellites…soaring into the sky at the times and locations determined by the WPK Central Committee,” said the director, who wasn’t named, according to the report.

In response to the report, a U.S. State Department spokesman noted that multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions require North Korea to suspend all activities related to its ballistic-missile program.

“Any satellite launch using ballistic missile technology would be a clear violation of those resolutions,” John Kirby said at a regular news briefing.

Kim Min-seok, spokesman for South Korea’s defense ministry, said a satellite launch by North Korea would be considered a ballistic-missile test and would be “a serious act of provocation.”

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