Hundreds of thousands of North Korean soldiers and civilians have packed Pyongyang’s main square to celebrate their nation’s successful launch of a long-range rocket.
|NORTH KOREA’S KEY MISSILE AND ATOMIC TESTS:|
August 31, 1998: Intermediate-range missile fails to put satellite into orbit
July 4, 2006: Failed test-launch of more advanced Taepodong-2 missile
October 9, 2006: First atomic test carried out
April 5, 2009: Unha-2 rocket reportedly places satellite into orbit (no satellite later detected)
May 25, 2009: Second atomic test
April 13, 2012: Long-range Unha-3 rocket explodes minutes after takeoff
December 12, 2012: Unha-3 rocket reportedly places satellite into orbit
State television footage showed the crowd in Kim Il-sung Square standing in organised ranks on Friday as they cheered speeches by senior military, party and government officials hailing the success of Wednesday’s launch and praising the country’s young leader, Kim Jong-un.
Many of the civilians were in warm coats, and the soldiers in olive-green overcoats and Russian-style trappers’ hats, as they pumped their fists and chanted “long live!”, the state TV’s hour-long broadcast showed, according to the AFP news agency.
“This was achieved thanks to the Great Marshall Kim Jong-un’s endless loyalty, bravery and wisdom,” said Jang Chol, president of the State Academy of Sciences.
Friday’s rally came hours after state media published a statement by Kim Jong-un ordering further “satellite launches”, despite the global outrage and UN condemnation triggered by Wednesday’s launch.
Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett, reporting from Seoul, the capital of neighbouring South Korea, said “all of these speeches were paying tribute to the three generations of leadership … and importantly Kim Jong-un, the current leader”.
The tone of the speeches, said our correspondent, buttressed “the position of Kim Jong-un as a technological breakthrough in his first year in power”.
North Korea says it placed a satellite in orbit for peaceful research, but critics say the launch amounted to a banned ballistic missile test that marked a major advance for the communist state’s nuclear weapons programme.
The launch has been condemned by neighbouring South Korea, the United States and the United Nations.
The United Nations Security Council held emergency talks on Wednesday after the North, already under international sanctions for nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, ignored pleas from friends and foes and went ahead with the launch.
The launch has sparked fears among Western nations that nuclear-armed North Korea is now a step closer to firing intercontinental ballistic missiles across the planet.
The UN Security Council has condemned the move and called for tougher sanctions.
Condemning Wednesday’s launch, the US state department said Kim had the chance as new leader “to take his country back into the 21st century” but instead was making the “wrong choices”.
Unfazed by the criticism, North Korean state media said Kim, who is in his late 20s, had personally signed off on the rocket launch and had declared his regime’s “unshakable stand” that the programme will continue.
Kim stressed the need “to launch satellites in the future… to develop the country’s science, technology and economy”, according to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) as it gave new details of the launch.
The “dear respected Marshal” visited mission control an hour before the rocket took off on Wednesday morning and praised the “ardent loyalty and patriotic devotion” of the technical team, KCNA said in the report early Friday.