Maurice Xialin – Asia Correspondant
North Korea has announced an ambitious new target for its Space Agency. The country’s domestic space program has experienced a number of failed launches in recent years though is undeniably becoming more sophisticated.
By 2020, it hopes to have deployed more advanced satellites into orbit as well as geo-synchronous to further its scientific pursuits and economy. And, in a recent interview with Associated Press, the Agency’s Director Hyong Kwang-il, outlined its most ambitious plan yet – to plant the North Korean flag on the moon.
Tensions on the Korean peninsula are at their highest as the annual joint U.S. – South Korean military drills approach. Every year, the “Foal Eagle” field exercises cause a stir from the reclusive North who believe it is a preparation for invasion. Sabre-rattling from both sides has in the past caused small skirmishes which included a brief artillery exchange last year and talks of war.
This year, North Korea has launched four missiles into the sea as a show of force. The most recent test saw a Medium-range ballistic missile land just outside Japan’s territorial waters, triggering crisis talks at the U.N. Security Council and fresh sanctions on the impoverished country.
Mr. Hyon is undeterred by the fresh sanctions and believes that they won’t stop the country from launching more satellites nor achieving its lunar dream. “No matter what anyone thinks, our country will launch more satellites.”
Recently, his agency achieved the launch of it most sophisticated satellite and rocket yet – the Kwangmyongsong 4, or “Brilliant Star 4”. The program has also been able to achieve a number of mile-stones with its ballistic missiles that are essential for the long-distance trip to the moon, but have also given it the ability to strike America’s West coast.
“Even though the U.S. and its allies try to block our space development, our aerospace scientists will conquer space and definitely plant the flag of the DPRK on the moon” – Hyon Kwang Il, director of the Scientific research department of North Korea’s National Aerospace Development Administration
North Korea: Into the Hermit Kingdom. Alex Tieu adventures into North Korea during their mass games to give us an inside perspective.
North Korea: A Descent into War. Artillery exchange and war-games bring the fragile armistice towards a bloody war.
Mr. Hyon has been quick to point out that the U.S and its allies are “hypocrites”, since their own space programs are themselves built on their military development of Nuclear Ballistic Missiles. “It is the U.S. that militarized space”.
He believes that Pyongyang’s space ambitions are actually peaceful in nature. He hopes that the new satellites could provide data for crop and forestry assessments, as well as improve communication across the hermit kingdom.
Whatever the outcome, the U.S. and South Korea are sure to be watching closely. Despite all its faults, Mr. Kim Jong Un’s Korea shows no sign of falling apart at least in the immediate future, and may indeed achieve its lunar dream, even at the cost of feeding its own people.
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