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N. Korea’s ceremonial leader to attend Moscow ceremony

May 4, 2015 - 19:31 By Shin Hyon-hee
North Korea’s ceremonial head of state will travel to Russia this week to attend a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, state media said Monday, days after Moscow unveiled the revocation of an anticipated trip by leader Kim Jong-un.

Kim Yong-nam, president of the Supreme People’s Assembly, will be among the more than two dozen world leaders that Moscow says will take part in the event slated for Saturday. The Korean Central News Agency’s report did not specify the timetable of his visit.

Last week, the Kremlin announced that Pyongyang had delivered via diplomatic channels its cancellation of what would have been the young ruler’s first overseas trip since taking power in December 2011.

Analysts suggest the decision was due to friction between the two countries, such as over the North’s demands for loans or other economic and military handouts. A news report out of Hong Kong suggested that Pyongyang has sought to buy Russian air defense missile systems but Moscow was lukewarm given the existing international sanctions.

While the leader stays at home, Kim Yong-nam has been representing the country through various overseas outings. He also turned up on behalf of the young Kim at an Asia-Africa summit in Jakarta last month, holding meetings with the leaders of Iran, Indonesia, Vietnam and Zimbabwe, as well as top officials from elsewhere.

Also on Tuesday, Seoul assessed that a new satellite control and command which Kim Jong-un recently inspected will likely facilitate future liftoffs of long-range missiles, though now there are no signs of any imminent firing.

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

“We believe that the control center uncovered this time is a new facility separate from the one in Pyongyang to which North Korea offered a tour for foreign correspondents in 2012, and which is not yet in full operation,” Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said at a regular news briefing.

“If the new center is much larger than the previous one in line with the report, it could help North Korea better control its launches of long-range missiles in the future.”

Since late 2013, the communist country is also reported to have been extending the length of a launchpad at its missile liftoff station in the western town of Dongchang, where it launched a satellite in December 2012.

Yet the work has made little headway since the second half of last year for unspecified reasons and will need extra “several months” until completion, Yonhap reported, citing an unnamed government source.

By Shin Hyon-hee (