North Korea fuels rocket for centenary launch in defiance of US threats

 

Seoul

North Korea fuelled up its latest long-range rocket yesterday, in defiance of vague threats from the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of "appropriate action" if it is launched.

Pyongyang could fire off the rocket as early as today, provided the weather is clear enough on the projected south-easterly flight pattern that may take it over the southern Japanese island of Okinawa to the South Pacific.

Japan has warned ships to stay clear of waters around Okinawa while threatening to shoot down the rocket – which the North says will be mounted with a satellite – if it crosses Japanese territory.

The US, Japan, Britain and others have said the move would violate UN Security Council resolutions banning the North from developing its nuclear and missile programmes.

In the run-up to the launch, North Korea's youthful "Supreme Leader" Kim Jong-un received a formal title aimed at underlining his authority.

As engineers were gassing up the rocket on its launch pad near the country's north-western coast, the ruling Workers' Party named him "First Secretary" – a new position created in deference to his late father, Kim Jong-il, who had had the title of General Secretary when he died last December. Rather than give the same title to Kim Jong-un, still in his late 20s, Pyongyang's Korea Central News Agency said Kim Jong-il would remain "Eternal General Secretary".

The title seemed logical, considering that the "Great Leader" Kim Il-sung was honoured as the "Eternal President" after dying in 1994 and leaving power to his son, Kim Jong-il. The rocket launch provides the fireworks for celebrations surrounding the centennial on Sunday of Kim Il-sung's birth in 1912.

The move to buttress Kim Jong-un's position came as South Koreans went to the polls yesterday in crucial National Assembly elections seen as a test of the waning popularity of the country's conservative President Lee Myung-bak. In early returns, the conservatives seemed likely to retain the assembly in the run-up to the election in December of a successor to Mr Lee, who is limited to a single five-year term under the South's "democracy" constitution.

As the hours ticked down to the North's rocket launch, headlines in the South reflected abiding interest in Pyongyang's machinations. A South Korean defence official said satellite imagery confirmed what a North Korean official had already told foreign journalists: that the country had finished injecting fuel into the missile. The North Korean said his "superiors" would decide when to fire the rocket.

North Korea has repeatedly said the launch would put a weather satellite into orbit – the same claim made after launches of an earlier version of the same rocket in 1998 and 2009. US and Russian scientists reported no sign of a satellite in either of those tests, which launched rockets with a theoretical range as far as the coast of the United States.

Yesterday, North Korea continued to show no outward signs of concern in the face of strong warnings by Barack Obama of consequences for the planned launch. The most the US can do, it's assumed, is raise the issue in the UN, which adopted sanctions in 2009.

1912

The year Kim Il-sung, the 'Great Leader' and 'Eternal President' was born.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea