March 27, 2012 / 1:54 AM / 8 years ago

North Korea gives details of "weather" satellite launch

Activists prepare to send balloons carrying donated socks to North Korea, at the parking lot of the Odusan Unification Observatory in Paju, near the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas March 27, 2012. Activists say warm socks are a critical necessity in North Korea during the winter months. North Korea on Monday gave details of a "weather satellite" it plans to send into orbit next month, as world leaders gathered in the South Korean capital, Seoul, for a nuclear security summit. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea gave details for the first time of a “weather satellite” it plans to send into orbit next month, a launch the West sees as a disguised ballistic missile test which has prompted criticism from the reclusive state’s only major ally, China.

The North’s KCNA news agency described it as an “advanced geostationary meteorological satellite data receiver” as world leaders gathered in the South Korean capital, Seoul, for a nuclear security summit.

“Kwangmyongsong-3 (Bright, Shining Star), a working satellite to be launched in April, will be greatly helpful to the study of weather forecast needed for agriculture and other economic fields,” KCNA said late on Monday.

“Scientific research for accurate weather forecast is being intensified in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea).”

Obama on Monday called on North Korea to curb its nuclear ambitions or face further international isolation.

He said the destitute North could be hit with tighter sanctions if it goes ahead with the rocket launch, but experts doubt China will back another U.N. Security Council resolution against North Korea.

The North had said earlier merely that the rocket would send a working satellite into space, but South Korea and the United States say it is a ballistic missile test.

Even though two previous launches of the long-range missile have failed, Washington says the North’s missile program is progressing quickly and that the American mainland could come under threat within five years.

Reporting by Nick Macfie; Editing Jeremy Laurence

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