This month’s long-range rocket launch will cost North Korea some $850 million, the equivalent of feeding 19 million people for one year, intelligence authorities in Seoul estimated Monday.
According to the estimate, revealed by a military official, construction of the launch site is expected to cost the North $400 million, while the rocket and its payload will cost $300 million and $150 million, respectively.
The North says the rocket launch set for sometime between April 12 and 16 is designed to put an earth observation satellite into orbit. Pyongyang also says it has a sovereign right to fire the rocket for the peaceful exploration of space, though the launch is widely seen as a disguised test of international ballistic missile technology banned under a U.N. resolution.
The Seoul official said that the rocket’s expenses of $850 million are enough to buy 2.5 million tons of corn from China and thus can feed 19 million of the North’s 24 million population for a year.
“North Korea has suffered a deficit of 400,000 tons of food every year. So, the money could resolve the problem of food shortages for six years,” the official said.
Separately, North Korea is expected to spend $2 billion to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of late President Kim Il-sung, the country’s founder and grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-un, which falls on April 15, according to the official.
Rebuffing a chorus of international warnings, North Korea has vowed to press ahead with its rocket launch plan, a move that is certain to invite stronger punitive actions from the international community.
Together with its nuclear weapons program, the North’s missile program has long been a regional security concern.
Pyongyang last launched a long-range rocket in April 2009 and conducted its second nuclear test a month later.
The official said North Korea might conduct a third nuclear test or stage a military provocation after the planned rocket launch.