Wednesday, April 11, 2012

North Korea fuels rocket - tensions rise.

AP) PYONGYANG, North Korea - North Korea was injecting liquid fuel Wednesday into the rocket it intends to send into space soon, a launch that the West deems provocative but that Pyongyang considers a peaceful centerpiece to celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of the nation's founder.

The final preparations at the west coast launch pad were taking place as North Korea's ruling Workers' Party convened for a special conference. Delegates are expected to further elevate new leader Kim Jong Un by giving him new titles, including some held by his father, the late Kim Jong Il.

The events come as North Korea celebrates the April 15 centennial of the birth of Kim Jong Un's grandfather, Kim Il Sung, a major milestone in the nation he founded in 1948.

North Korea has thrown open its doors to a select group of journalists and visitors from abroad for two weeks of celebrations in what might be the largest influx of foreigners in years. North Korea also marks the 80th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People's Army, another key event, on April 25.

Space officials call the launching of the Unha-3 rocket, mounted with an Earth observation satellite, the crowning glory in a week of events meant to celebrate Kim Il Sung's birthday.

The United States, Japan, Britain and others, however, see it as a provocation and violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions banning North Korea from developing its nuclear and missile programs.

Experts say the Unha-3 carrier is similar to the type of rocket that could be used to fire a missile mounted with a nuclear warhead to strike the U.S. or other targets.

Paek Chang Ho, chief of the North Korean space committee's General Command Center, denied Wednesday that the launch was anything but a peaceful, civilian bid to send a satellite into space. He said the satellite would send back images and data used for weather forecasts and agricultural surveys.

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