12/14/2012, 00.00
KOREA
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North Koreans celebrate Kim's rocket

by Joseph Yun Li-sun
Hundreds of thousands brave the frigid temperatures in Kim Il-sung Square and celebrate the successful launch of the Unha-3 rocket. Kim Jong-un, North Korea's young dictator, is hailed as the author of the success. However, South Korea is first to find the rocket's first stage fuel container and is convinced that the North is preparing a new nuclear test.

Seoul (AsiaNews) - Despite the bitter cold, hundreds of thousands of North Korea came out en mass today in Pyongyang and other North Korea cities to celebrate the successful launch of the Unha-3 rocket that put a satellite in orbit on Wednesday. In the capital, a traditional mass rally with at least 200,000 people was held with participants dancing and waving large coloured cards to create ideograms with the rocket's name and that of the country's new leader, Kim Jong-un.

The huge crowd in Pyongyang's in Kim Il-sung Square, shown on state television, cheered as top officials in the army, party and government delivered their speeches and praised the new dictator's "bravery and wisdom". Indeed, the launch "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.

North Korea claims that the long-range rocket it launched placed a satellite into orbit. It also claims that its space programme is intended for peaceful purposes; critics however contend that it is part of the regime's military nuclear programme.

For his part, the young Kim, cited by the regime's official news agency, told the crowd that North Korea needed "to launch satellites in the future . . . to develop the country's science, technology and economy".

Internationally, the launch has instead raised suspicions, especially in South Korea, which now fears new provocations.

Intelligence authorities and experts here believe a nuclear test is imminent, the daily Chosun Ilbo reported. Defence Minister Kim Kwan-jin told the National Assembly on Wednesday that "North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests and made considerable progress toward a third one," adding that Pyongyang may well conduct another test if it deems it "politically necessary."

To gather more information, South Korea's Navy located the first stage of the North Korean rocket, a fuel container at a depth of about 80 metres.

"The launch means the fulfilment of Kim Jong-Il's last wish," said Yoo Ho-Yeol, a political science professor at Korea University in Seoul. "As such, it helps cement Jong-un's grip on power and strengthens his authority over the North's military elites, securing their loyalty and a sense of solidarity under his leadership," Yoo added.

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