State Department Distinguishes South Korean Space Launch Program from North Korea's

State Department Distinguishes South Korean Space Launch Program from North Korea's

South Korea aborted its first satellite launch eight minutes before its planned lift off yesterday. According to South Korea’s news agency, Yonhap, the problem was a “software sensor connected to the automatic launch sequence that checks high-pressure tanks.” Yonhap also reported that the launch may be rescheduled “before August 26.”

It would have been the first orbital launch by South Korea from its own launch site, the Naro Space Center. The Korea Space Launch Vehicle (KSLV)-1, or Naro-1, has a Russian-built first stage. The launch is scheduled to place a 100 kilogram South Korean-built science and technology satellite (STSAT-2) into low Earth orbit. Other South Korean satellites have been launched, but always by foreign launch service providers.

North Korea warned that it would watch the reaction of the international community to the launch, asking whether South Korea would be subject to the same sanctions it faced after its attempted satellite launch earlier this year. North Korea asserts that it successfully placed a satellite in orbit with that April 2009 launch, but most sources said it did not reach orbit. North Korea was widely criticized and subjected to United Nations sanctions for conducting a missile test under the guise of a satellite launch. North Korea’s complaint prompted the following exchange between State Department spokesman Ian Kelly and an unidentified reporter during the State Department’s daily press briefing yesterday.

MR. KELLY: [snip]

Regarding the launch of the satellite, I don’t really have any comments on it, other than to say that we’ve regularly consulted with the Government of South Korea on a number of issues relating to security. We know that they’ve developed their space launch program in a responsible manner. And of course, they’re a signatory to a number of international agreements regarding nonproliferation. And beyond that, I don’t really have any further comments.

QUESTION: So does that suggest that you don’t believe that North Korea – the North Koreans have developed their space launch program in a responsible manner?

MR. KELLY: Well, as you know, the North Koreans are under a number of UN Security Council sanctions relating to their ballistic missile program, and the UN Security Council called on them to suspend all activities relating to —

QUESTION: Right. But you don’t see – you don’t see that South Korea’s launching a ballistic missile for the reasons that – for reasons that the North claimed they were launching theirs for, as in any way destabilizing the situation?

MR. KELLY: Well, as I said, the North – the South Koreans have developed their program in a very open and transparent way and in keeping with the international agreements that they have signed onto. This is in stark contrast to the example set by North Korea, which has not abided by its international agreements.

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