launch imminent, official says
By Will Ripley and Tim Schwarz, CNN
Updated 1201 GMT (1901 HKT) September 23, 2015
Pyongyang (CNN)It looks like the Starship Enterprise from the outside, a futuristic complex surrounded by landscaped gardens in a quiet residential area of Pyongyang. This is North Korea’s newly opened satellite control center.
CNN had been given an exclusive interview with the senior officials who run it, though the front door is as close as we’re permitted to get.
Just weeks before a major national holiday widely thought to be a target date for the reclusive nation’s first rocket and satellite blast-off in nearly three years, two senior directors of the National Aeronautical Development Association (NADA) tell us a launch is “imminent” and final preparations are underway to send rockets and “multiple satellites” into space.
They insist their purpose is peaceful space exploration. The scientists also express “outrage” at ongoing speculation they are secretly operating a ballistic missile development program.
We park on the street nearby, a main thoroughfare busy with vehicle and bicycle traffic, and walk up a small hill to the General Satellite Control Center. We pass two separate guard posts, where our identities are carefully checked against a list of approved visitors. Arranging access for a foreign news crew was exceedingly difficult, we are told, as there is great suspicion about the motives of reporters from “hostile” nations. The government says we’re the first outside media allowed inside the complex.
But the two checkpoints are all the security we see — no heavy barriers, no barbed wire or visible armed presence. It all seems very low key for access to what North Korea calls the heart of its supreme leader Kim Jong Un’s ambitious plan to make his country a space superpower. Some international observers have speculated the satellite control center is actually a military facility, but its appearance, at least on the surface, suggests otherwise.
We’re greeted by two of the program’s top scientists dressed in smart, newly designed uniforms, a row of brass buttons down the front of their jackets, and a smart military cap.
On the left side of their jackets they wear a red pin with the portraits of the two former leaders Kim Il Sung and his son Kim Jong Il, on the other, the logo of NADA. Both the acronym and the logo bear a striking similarity to those of NASA, its counterpart in the land of its great enemy the United States.