Photograph by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images.
UPDATE: Photos provided Monday to the Associated Press show that North Korea has completed more preparation than previously thought for a controversial rocket launch expected on or around April 15.
The launch will coincide with the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim il-Sung, who was supreme leader of the Communist state for four decades. The planned launch has been contested by the United States and South Korea, who see it is as a cover for a test of ballistic missiles that could be used to reach Pyongyang’s enemy states.
The AP has more on why the planned launch matters here.
Meanwhile, the ruling Workers’ Party announced Monday that it will hold a conference next week that will likely name Kim Jong-un as secretary-general. CNN explains that the position would also mean that "Kim Jong Un would ex officio become chairman of the party's central military committee, following in the footsteps of his father, Kim Jong Il, who died in December."
Tuesday, March 27: North Korea on Tuesday vowed to proceed with a planned long-range rocket launch next month, despite warnings from President Obama and other world leaders.
"The U.S. head of state said he had no hostile intention towards us," a Pyongyang foreign ministry spokesman said via state media, the Telegraph reports. "But if that remark is genuine, he should abandon the confrontational mindset that tries to block us, and should have the courage to admit that we have as much right to launch our satellite as other countries do."
North Korean leaders say that the planned rocket launch is a peaceful activity designed to put a satellite into orbit. But South Korea and many western observers say that is a thinly-veiled cover for a larger weapons tests.
The U.S. has warned the reclusive nation that if it goes through with the launch, it could mean an end to a recent food aid deal between the two countries.
Monday, March 26: North Korea has moved a long-range rocket to a launchpad for a test on Monday, shortly after Obama sternly warned the reclusive nation against further provocations.
As CNN reports, Obama is in Seoul, South Korea, for a global summit on nuclear security. North Korea had previously announced plans to launch a satellite using a long-range missile in April, a move that South Korea and many in the West suspect is actually part of a larger attempt to develop a nuclear missile.
The Associated Press reports that there may be an ulterior motive behind Monday's test: upstaging the nuclear security summit, at which several heads of state have gathered to discuss ways to prevent terrorists from getting access to nuclear materials.
Sunday, March 25: President Obama increased its harsh words and warnings toward North Korea early in his trip to Seoul, where he is attending a global summit on nuclear security. Obama warned North Korea that it was leading its people toward a “dead end” of isolation, reports the Associated Press.
If Pyongyang decides to go ahead with its plan to launch a satellite using a long-range missile next month, it would jeopardize a food aid deal signed in February, warned Obama. “North Korea needs to understand that bad behavior will not be rewarded,” Obama said during an evening news conference with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.
North Korea does not seem willing to back down. On Sunday, the South Korean military said Pyongyan had moved the rocket to a new launching station, reports the New York Times.
Obama has also increased pressure on China to get more involved in negotiations with North Korea, accusing Beijing of having a habit of “turning a blind eye to deliberate provocations.” In what seemed to be a clear attack on Pyongyang’s pride, Obama questioned whether the young Kim Jong Un was even really in charge, notes the AP.
One of the first things Obama did when he reached Seoul was travel to the edge of the Demilitarized Zone that divides North Korea from South Korea. He spent about 10 minutes peering to the North through binoculars. “It was like looking across 50 years into country that has missed 40 or 50 years of progress,” Obama said, reports the Washington Post.