AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
PYONGYANG: North Korea’s five-day window to launch a rocket opened today with no confirmed firing, but Asian countries remained on alert as Washington rallied world opinion against the communist state.
The morning timeframe in which North Korea plans to launch its 30-metre rocket came and went with no sign of liftoff from a newly built space centre on the country’s northwestern Yellow Sea coast.
But the North says the Unha-3 (Galaxy-3) rocket, ostensibly carrying a satellite payload, could go up any day between now and Monday to coincide with Sunday’s centenary of the birth of its founding leader Kim Il-Sung.
North Korea is now led by a third generation of the Kim dynasty in the youthful form of Kim Jong-Un, who has been awarded an array of titles including on Wednesday chairman of the all-powerful Central Military Commission.
Fighter jets were heard roaring across Pyongyang’s overcast skies early today as the showcase capital stepped up preparations for mass festivities on Sunday to mark the 100th anniversary.
North Korea says its rocket launch is not a banned missile test and that it has every right to send the satellite up, as it promotes the untested leadership of Jong-Un, who succeeded his late father Kim Jong-Il in December.
Lee Yun-Keol, a high-ranking North Korean defector who now heads a think-tank in Seoul, said he had obtained Kim Jong-Il’s last will and testament, which urged the state to develop weapons of mass destruction.
Excerpts of the will were published by Japanese weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun based on the document provided by Lee, who worked for North Korea’s bodyguard bureau, the organisation in charge of protecting the Kim family. “Keep in mind that constantly developing and keeping nuclear weapons, long-range missiles and biochemical weapons is the way to keep peace on the Korean peninsula,” the will purportedly said.
“We have to win the psychological war with the United States. By standing up imposingly as a legitimate nuclear power, we have to weaken American influence in the Korean peninsula and work towards lifting international sanctions to prepare external conditions for economic development,” it added.
North Korea says it has invited between 150 and 200 foreign journalists to watch the rocket launch and the weekend commemorations, the largest number of overseas media ever welcomed in to the reclusive state.