N. Korea preparing to launch satellite: Report

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Pyongyang reasserts right to develop space tech; sanctions imposed last Friday

SEOUL: North Korea is preparing to launch a satellite, a Seoul newspaper said yesterday, as observers warned that the reclusive regime's space programme is a cover for weapons tests.

Pyongyang is under multiple UN sanctions over its nuclear and missile tests and is prohibited from carrying out any launch using ballistic missile technology, including satellites.

"We have recently learnt that the North has completed a new satellite and named it Kwangmyongsong-5," the Joongang Ilbo daily reported, quoting a South Korean government source. "Their plan is to put a satellite equipped with cameras and telecommunication devices into orbit."

Pyongyang launched its Kwangmyongsong-4 satellite in February last year, which most in the international community viewed as a disguised ballistic missile test.

A spokesman for the South Korean military Joint Chiefs of Staff said there was "nothing out of ordinary" yet but added that Seoul was watching out for any provocative acts, "including the test of a long-range missile disguised as a satellite launch".

The report came as the North's ruling party newspaper Rodong Sinmun reasserted the regime's right to launch satellites and develop its space technology in a commentary published on Monday.

The daily said Pyongyang's satellite launches "absolutely correspond" with international laws about space development.

On Monday, China called for all countries to make constructive efforts to ease tension after North Korea said the latest United Nations sanctions against it are an act of war and tantamount to a complete economic blockade.

The UN Security Council unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea last Friday for its recent intercontinental ballistic missile test, seeking to limit its access to refined petroleum products and crude oil and its earnings from workers abroad.

North Korea on Sunday rejected the resolution, calling it an act of war.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said the resolution appropriately strengthened the sanctions but was not designed to affect ordinary people.

Ms Hua noted it also called for the use of peaceful means to resolve the issue and that all sides should take steps to reduce tension . - AFP, REUTERS