North Korea leader Kim Jong Un vows to launch more satellites

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks during the 5th meeting of training officers of the Korean People's Army in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on April 26, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks during the 5th meeting of training officers of the Korean People's Army in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on April 26, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL (AFP) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed to launch more "satellites" in order to become a space power, state media said on Sunday, despite global condemnation on past launches, dubbed disguised ballistic missile tests.

Mr Kim, during a visit to the North's newly-built satellite command centre, urged scientists to work harder to "further glorify the (North) as a space power", state-run KCNA said.

"The status of the (North) as a satellite producer-launcher remains unchanged though the hostile forces deny it and its space development can never be abandoned, no matter who may oppose," Mr Kim was quoted as saying. The new, 13,770 sq m command centre will provide a "solid springboard for continued launch of various working satellites", the KCNA said.

More satellites will be launched into outer space at the time and locations set by the ruling Workers' Party, Kim said, adding that such projects are "legitimate rights" of the country.

The impoverished but nuclear-armed North in December 2012 launched a satellite into orbit, describing it as a purely peaceful scientific project.

But the UN condemned the move as a disguised ballistic missile test, banned under the UN resolutions triggered by its nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

Pyongyang, angered by fresh UN sanctions following the launch, conducted its third nuclear test - its most powerful to date - in February 2013.

The 2012 satellite launch was seen as a major step forward for the North's nuclear weapons programme, as long-range missile delivery capability had long been cited as its main weakness.

There is little doubt that the North has an active ballistic missile development programme, but expert opinion is split on just how much progress it has made.

Analysts say development of a working, long-range missile capable of reaching the US would mean the North's regular nuclear strike warnings would be taken more seriously.

But the country is yet to conduct a test showing it has mastered the technology required for an effective intercontinental ballistic missile.