Kim Jong-un has ordered North Korean scientists to construct a missile that will be the largest in the regime’s arsenal and to have it ready to be launched on September 9, the 70th anniversary of the founding of the republic, according to a defector.
His account suggests the North Korean leader issued the order at a two-day meeting of senior military leaders and scientists in Pyongyang in mid-December.
The defector has not been named, but was described by Japan’s Mainichi newspaper, as someone who was involved in the regime’s missile programme and has retained links to contacts in the North.
He told the newspaper the missile will be designated the Unha-4 and will be a larger version of the Unha-3, a three-stage vehicle which North Korea claims is a rocket designed to put satellites into orbit.
An Unha-3 was successfully launched from the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, in the far north-west of the country, in February 2016.
The rocket is believed to have placed a small satellite in orbit, but experts have been unable to detect any transmissions from the satellite.
North Korea insists it has the sovereign right to operate rockets and satellites, although the United Nations Security Council has condemned Unha-class rocket launches on the grounds that the vehicles are essentially modified long-range missiles and that the North is using the tests to advance its inter-continental strike capabilities.
North Korean state media appears to be readying for a new launch, with the Rodong Sinmun newspaper on December 25 stating in an editorial that: “Our satellite launch is a legitimate exercise of the right that thoroughly fits the UN Charter that enshrines the basic rights of respect for sovereignty and equality, and the international laws that govern the peaceful use of space.”