Saturday, 31 March 2012 11:15
SEOUL - North Korea will open key satellite facilities to foreign experts and reporters to allow them to observe a satellite launch next month, in an apparent attempt to fend- off mounting international criticism.
The North also said the 100-kilogram earth observation satellite will circle along the solar synchronous orbit at an altitude of 500 kilometers for two years, in a rare revelation of technical details of its satellite.
The move came after South Korea, the United States and other regional powers accused North Korea of trying to conduct a ballistic missile test, which is banned under a U.N. resolution.
In defiance of international warnings, North Korea vowed to go ahead with its rocket launch set between April 12 and 16 to put the satellite into orbit in time for the 100th anniversary of the birth of late President Kim Il-sung, the country's founder and grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-un, which falls on April 15.
"We will organize special visits going beyond the international usage to show with transparency the peaceful, scientific and technological nature of the satellite," an official of the Korean Committee for Space Technology said Wednesday, according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency.
The official said the North will take the foreign delegations to a launch site ahead of the rocket launch and later to the General Satellite Control and Command Center in Pyongyang where they will "see the satellite being launched in a relevant place."
The North did not give any details on which foreign delegations would visit the communist country for what could be the first outside observation of a rocket launch.
The North's official told the KCNA the satellite "will assess the distribution of forests and natural resources" of the North and "collect data necessary for weather forecast, natural resources prospecting and others."
The official also said the satellite, mounted with a video camera, will send observation data, including pictures to the General Satellite Control and Command Center in Pyongyang.
In 2009, the North claimed it successfully put a satellite into orbit as part of a peaceful space program. However, Seoul and Washington said at the time that the launch was meant to test Pyongyang's ballistic missile technology and that no object entered the orbit.
Meanwhile, Japan's Tokyo Shimbun reported, citing an unidentified source, that North Korea began fueling a rocket and could launch the rocket around April 12 or 13. Last week, the North said its preparations for the rocket launch "have entered a full-fledged stage of action."
A senior South Korean official denied the report, however, saying it made no sense to fuel the rocket this early as it is a last step before a launch. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said fueling usually takes place one or two days before a launch.
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