North Korean leader Kim Jong-UN said space exploration is a “strategic goal,” announcing his nation plans more satellite launches, while the US fears the launches are a cover for ballistic missile tests.
"Conquering space is a fierce class struggle against the hostile forces seeking to infringe upon our peace and sovereignty," Kim’s words were translated as saying at a Wednesday awards ceremony for those involved in this month's rocket launch.
He outlined that "more working satellites" were needed for successful launches, Pyongyang’s KCNA news agency reported.
"The advance towards space is the DPRK’s [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] strategic goal," he said.
Kim gave out medals and prizes while saying the scientists involved in the February 7 launch were the "best patriots and admirable heroes."
The US, Japan and South Korea were outraged with North Korea’s successful launch of the Kwangmyongsong-4 satellite, which came a month after a nuclear test.
They viewed the launch as a disguised ballistic missile test and suggested the test violated multiple UN resolutions banning the country from the use of ballistic technology.
The countries are fronting efforts at the UN Secutiry Council for a harsh resolution that could impose strong sanctions on Pyongyang over the recent tests.
In addition, US President Barack Obama agreed on new sanctions against North Korea on Thursday, aimed at anyone importing goods, technology or weapons of mass destruction into the north or anyone who knowingly engaged in human rights abuses there.
The measure is to put financial pressure on the country as the US believes money laundering and narcotics trafficking are funnelling millions of dollars into Kim’s inner circle.
Under the bill, which is already passed by Congress, penalties for the sanctionable activities include seizure of assets, visa bans and denial of government contracts.
For the first time, the bill established a framework for sanctions in response to North Korean cyber threats.