NEW DELHI: For the first time ever, the highly-secretive regime of North Korea has invited Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to witness the controversial satellite launch, deemed as a show of strength of the country’s new leader Kim Jongun in defiance of the chorus of disapproving voices from the international community.
“We have sent an invitation to the ISRO to come and witness the satellite launch,” a senior official of the North Korean Embassy here told Express. “This is the first time that we have invited India,” he added.
The invite comes in the backdrop of the rising profile of India in East Asia, in line with its ambition to become a bigger player in international issues. The North Korean diplomat said the invite had been sent through the Ministry of External Affairs about 10 days ago. “We have not got a response yet,” he added.
The senior official added that India had been added to the list of those invited as it is a “great country” and “a representative of the developing countries in the United Nations”.
“We want greater cooperation with India in space research,” he said, noting that North Korea had previously sent officials to participate in workshops organised by the ISRO.
According to reports from Pyongyang, North Korea has made final preparations for the rocket launch set between April 12 and April 16, which it claimed would put in orbit a satellite to monitor weather conditions.
However, this explanation was not accepted by the international community, including US, Russia and the UK, claiming that it was actually a ballistic missile test, which is prohibited by United Nations Security Council resolution in 1874.
North Korea has already conducted two nuclear tests, but has not yet mastered the ballistic missile technology to launch long-range rockets with nuclear warheads.
The rocket launch is the main highlight of the 100th anniversary celebrations of North Korea founder Kim Il Sung and the 80th anniversary of the Korean People’s Army. More significantly, it would also mark the formal installation of Kim Jong-un as the country’s leader, the third in the family to be at the helm after the death of his father in December.
India is unlikely to be a witness to the launch as it strictly adheres to the UNSC resolution.
Last month, India had made its disapproval of the launch public, during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s state visit to Seoul. A joint statement had asserted that “nothing should be done which increases tensions in the region and violates the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.” On Tuesday, China again reiterated its call for “restraint” by North Korea, but the US administration asserted that Beijing could lean harder on Pyongyang to stop the rocket launch. The US has threatened that the scheduled launch could put at risk international food aid to North Korea.
Japan has already put its anti-missile system on alert.
Speaking to Express, the North Korean diplomat said international invitations have been sent out to convince the world that it was only a satellite launch. “The UNSC resolution has no mention of anything prohibiting a satellite launch,” he said. India’s relations with North Korea had been on the upswing, after Indian assistance of $1 million was made through the World Food Programme to ameliorate the dire food security situation in that country.
Following that, a delegation led by MEA Secretary (East) Sanjay Singh to Pyongyang in September 2011 was given rare access to visit the countryside to see how the assistance was being utilised.