The launch is intended to be the first step toward turning North Korea into a “major space power.”
“Following the instructions of Marshall Kim Jong Un we scientists here are working very hard, you can’t imagine how hard, to develop in the shortest possible time, multi-functional, highly reliable Earth observation satellites. We are trying to show to the world how patriotic we are and how creative we are as scientists,” said Hyon Gwang II, director of scientific development at NADA.
The event is raising eyebrows, given the nation’s past technological mishaps and embarrassments. A heavily publicized launch in 2012 ended in failure, when the rocket disintegrated and fell into the ocean moments after takeoff.
The nation claimed to have successfully launched an Earth observation satellite later that year in September, and also alleges two prior successes in 1998 and 2009. No one outside of North Korea has ever detected the satellites.
North Korea has ignored past warnings from other nations about its satellite program. Many believe the program is a cover for a military operation that will allow North Korea to target foreign nations from space. However, the scientists maintained that their goal is purely peaceful space exploration.
Despite this, North Korea has continuously issued nuclear threats at the United States and various other nations. Though it is known if North Korea possesses nuclear weapons, any existing weapons are suspected to be well outside the range of the U.S.
According to Reuters, North Korea’s sole ally China has warned the country not to conduct the space launch.
“We call on all sides to adopt a responsible attitude toward the peninsula as well as the region of northeast Asia, and never again take any new action that could lead to tensions in the situation there,” said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.