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Kim nixed Russia trip after failed missile buy: report

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s recent revocation of his anticipated visit to Russia may have resulted from Moscow’s lukewarm response to Pyongyang’s plans to purchase its air defense missile systems, a news report said Saturday.

Hong Kong’s Phoenix TV cited a Russian defense expert, reporting that the North floated a proposal to purchase four sets of Russia’s S-300 long-range surface-to-air missile systems during a visit by Hyon Yong-chol, minister of the People’s Armed Forces, to Moscow last month to take part in an international security conference.

The fully-automated equipment was first deployed by the former Soviet Union in the late 1970s to defend its airspace, military bases and industrial and administrative facilities against aircraft and cruise missiles.

But Moscow declined Pyongyang’s offer of barter in favor of cash, and indicated that it could upset the “strategic balance” in the region and thus needs the consent of China and other neighbors, the expert was quoted as saying. 

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (third from right) speaks with officials during his visit to a newly built satellite control and command center. (Yonhap)
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (third from right) speaks with officials during his visit to a newly built satellite control and command center. (Yonhap)

The report came shortly after the Kremlin announced that the Kim regime had delivered via diplomatic channels his decision to back out of what would have been his first overseas trip since taking power in December 2011, citing “domestic affairs.” The trip was chiefly designed to attend a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II on May 9 and on its sidelines to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

While Beijing has apparently leaned toward lingering uncertainties until the last minute, some Seoul officials also raised the possibility that the young ruler had indeed planned to go but did an about-face after certain demands were not met.

Meanwhile, Kim has inspected a new satellite control and command in charge of rocket launches, calling space development a “critical task” for the people and vowing to carry on the project, the North’s official media reported Sunday.

Run by the National Aerospace Development Administration, the 13,770-square-meter facility is responsible for satellite launches and consists of chambers to show the entire launch process in real time, a control room, observatory, e-library and other spaces.

“Peaceful space development is an option taken by our party and people and a legitimate right of Songun (military first) Korea,” Kim said.

“The status of (North Korea) as a satellite producer-launcher remains unchanged though the hostile forces deny it and its space development can never be abandoned, no matter who may oppose.”

The communist country has fired five long-range missiles since 1998 and successfully put a satellite into orbit in the fifth round in December 2012, prompting the U.N. Security Council to impose a series of stifling sanctions.

By Shin Hyon-hee (heeshin@heraldcorp.com)
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