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North Korea begins fuelling rocket ahead of planned launch

North Korea has openly defied calls to back down from a planned satellite launch, openly beginning to fuel its rocket.

North Korean soldiers march and carry a portrait of the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il during a military parade at Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang.
North Korean soldiers march and carry a portrait of the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il during a military parade at Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang.
Image: David Guttenfelder/AP

NORTH KOREA has defied international pressure by continuing with plans to launch a rocket over the weekend, which the United States and others say is tantamount to a breach of a UN weapons ban.

The rocket – being launched to mark the 100th birthday of the state’s founder and Eternal President, Kim Il-sung – is purportedly intended to launch an observation satellite, but other countries believe it is actually a ballistic missile test and have urged Pyongyang to back down.

Despite those calls, however, the country today said it had proceeded with fuelling the rocket ahead of a launch sometime in the next five days.

AFP quoted the director of the mission control centre, Paek Chang-Ho, as telling journalists: “We are injecting fuel as we speak. It has started [and] will be over in the near future.”

He added that the launch “will be successful because Comrade Kim Jong-Un is guiding us through the launch step by step, and gives us personal guidance.”

CNN points out that the US has already suspended an agreement to provide food aid, in protest at the launch, while Japan has readied missile defences and says it’ll shoot down any rocket that comes near its territory.

South Korea, meanwhile, has promised to respond with “appropriate countermeasures” to the launch, which it describes as a “grave provocation”.

The same mission control centre was used in 2009, the last time North Korea said it was launching an observation satellite, but no new satellite was observed after the launch – leading other countries to declare the launch an attempted missile launch.

The comments of Paek Chang-Ho, however, could be interpreted as an implicit admission that the launch had been unsuccessful.

In separate developments, also to mark Kim Il-Sung’s 100th birthday, the fourth-ever conference of the ruling Workers’ Party has formally given Kim Jong-Un the title of First Secretary, confirming him as the party’s new leader.

His late father, Kim Jong-Il – who held the position of General Secretary until his death – will keep that title as its Eternal General Secretary, though naturally the powers of the position have been devolved to the First Secretary position now held by his youngest son.

Jong-Un’s grandfather Kim Il-Sung, the founder of the state, remains the country’s Eternal President in a similar manner.

Read: Flight paths changed as North Korea prepares for rocket launch

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Gavan Reilly

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