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New North Korean leader makes first public speech

By Jean H. Lee

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, April 15 2012 5:20 a.m. MDT

"That suggests to me that they want to let the country, and the world, know that this is a 'new' country," said Han S. Park, a University of Georgia professor who works frequently with top U.S. and North Korean officials, after watching the events in Pyongyang.

The young leader said he will aggressively pursue economic growth to improve people's daily lives. North Korea has suffered decades of economic hardship following a famine in the mid-1990s and the loss of aid from the Soviet Union. Kim Jong Un's formal three-year succession has coincided with a push to improve the economy by employing modern technology.

Kim made no direct mention of the rocket failure. But North Korea's state media made an extraordinary announcement hours after the launch, saying that the attempt to send a satellite into space had flopped. It still claims past launches succeeded, which international experts deny.

Concerns remain high that North Korea may now feel itself under pressure to make up for the botched rocket launch with a nuclear test — as it did in 2006 and 2009.

The finale in Sunday's military parade added to the worries over North Korea's military. But analysts in Japan and South Korea said further examination is needed to determine whether it's a new intercontinental ballistic missile that North Korea reportedly has been building.

Narushige Michishita, a North Korea military expert at Japan's National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, said the missile appeared to be new, but strongly resembled the rocket used on Friday and also the long-range Taepodong-2, which North Korea first launched, unsuccessfully, in 2006.

He said it probably has three stages but did not appear to be big enough to have the 15,000-kilometer (9,000-mile) range needed to effectively attack the United States, which would be the goal of an ICBM for the North.

"I don't think this is a serious ICBM," Michishita said. "Putting it on display has a psychological impact, and that would have been greater if Friday's launch had worked. But North Korea has a very bad record with long-range missiles. It think this is more a propaganda ploy than a military advance."

Associated Press writers Sam Kim, Foster Klug and Eric Talmadge in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.

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