Seoul, Feb 19: North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un says his reclusive nation plans more "satellite launches" -- which the West sees as a cover for ballistic missile tests -- calling space exploration a "strategic goal", state media said today.
"Conquering space is ... a fierce class struggle against the hostile forces seeking to usurp our peace and sovereignty", Kim was quoted as saying at a Wednesday awards ceremony for those involved in this month's rocket launch. He also underscored the need to successfully launch "more working satellites", Pyongyang's KCNA news agency said.
"The advance toward space... is the DPRK's (North Korea's) strategic goal", he said. Calling the scientists involved in the February 7 launch "best patriots and admirable heroes", Kim gave out medals, prizes and wristwatches bearing the names of the two late leaders of the Kim dynasty -- Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il.
North Korea sparked international outrage with the launch of the Kwangmyongsong-4 satellite, which came just a month after its fourth nuclear test. The launch, which most in the international community viewed as a disguised ballistic missile test, violated multiple UN resolutions banning the nuclear-armed country from the use of ballistic technology.
The United States, along with Asian allies South Korean and Japan, are spearheading efforts at the UN Security Council for a strong resolution that will impose harsh sanctions on Pyongyang over the recent nuclear test and rocket launch.
Separately, US President Barack Obama on Thursday signed off on new sanctions against North Korea, aimed at anyone importing goods or technology related to weapons of mass destruction into the North, or anyone who knowingly engaged in human rights abuses there.
The measure also heaps additional financial pressure on the already-sanctioned regime by taking aim at money laundering and narcotics trafficking, two major illicit activities believed to be funnelling millions of dollars into Kim's inner circle.
Under the bill already passed by Congress, penalties for the sanctionable activities would include the seizure of assets, visa bans and denial of government contracts. And for the first time, it establishes a framework for sanctions in response to North Korean cyber threats.