SEOUL • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has promised to put more satellites in space, even as the international community prepares to punish his regime over a long-range rocket launch just last week.
At a banquet to congratulate the scientists, technicians and officials who contributed to the Feb 7 launch, Mr Kim noted the mission had come at "a complex time when hostile forces are more bloody-eyed than ever to strangle" the North, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported yesterday.
Mr Kim said the success of the launch was made possible by the team's "blood-sealed trust" in the ruling party and added that the scientists' sweat had provided the rocket's main fuel.
He urged the gathering to use the success as a springboard "to achieve higher targets and thus launch more working satellites", KCNA said.
North Korea sparked international anger last week with the launch of the Kwangmyongsong-4 satellite, just a month after its fourth nuclear test. The launch, which most observers in the international community viewed as a disguised ballistic missile test, violated multiple United Nations resolutions banning the nuclear-armed country from the use of ballistic technology.
The United States, along with Asian allies South Korea and Japan, are spearheading efforts at the UN Security Council for a strong resolution that will impose harsh sanctions on Pyongyang.
China, while frustrated by North Korea and having signed up for numerous previous rounds of UN sanctions against its isolated neighbour, has said it does not believe sanctions are the way to resolve the problem and has urged a return to talks.
"We urge the United States and North Korea to sit down and have communications and negotiations, to explore ways to resolve each other's reasonable concerns and finally reach the goal we all want reached," China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said yesterday.
He also noted that Chinese and South Korean foreign affairs officials will discuss the current situation on the Korean peninsula in Seoul today in a scheduled high-level strategic dialogue.
Concern in South Korea over how to respond to rising tensions with the North loomed as an election issue ahead of parliamentary polls in April.
Opposition liberals have blamed President Park Geun Hye for lacking a clear strategy to deal with the North.
Mr Won Yoo Chul, floor leader for the ruling Saenuri party, yesterday said South Korea should adopt "peaceful" nuclear weapons and missiles against North Korea's "fearful and self-destructive" ones.
But Defence Minister Han Min Koo later told lawmakers that Seoul was not considering acquiring nuclear weapons.
President Park plans to address Parliament today, where she will seek bipartisan support for addressing the security threat from Pyongyang.
"The President will underline the importance of the Parliament's legislative function, especially in times of trouble, and urge for the swift passage of the terrorism prevention Bill, North Korean human rights Bill and the labour reform Bills," Mr Kim Sung Woo, chief presidential secretary for public affairs, said on Sunday.
Washington and Seoul will begin talks this week about the possible US deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence System - a missile defence system - on the Korean peninsula in response to Pyongyang's ballistic missile programme.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, XINHUA, THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK