Written by Robin Berger
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Thursday, 19 October 2006

image for North Korea declares Mars space "sovereign"
North Korea's "Great Leader," Kim Jong-Il (left), toasts the signing of an order declaring sovereignty over Mars space

PYONG YANG -- North Korea's "Great Leader," Kim Jong-Il, has signed an order asserting North Korea's right to deny adversaries access to space around the planet Mars for hostile purposes. The order says North Korea will oppose the development of treaties or other restrictions that seek to prohibit or limit Korean access to or use of any space station, man-made satellite, or moon in orbit around Mars. The provisions were contained in the first revision of North Korea's space policy in nearly 10 years.

The order, signed more than a month ago, was not publicly announced although unclassified details of his decision were posted on the Web site of the North Korean Office of Science and Technology Policy.

"Freedom of action in Mars orbit is as important to North Korea as air power and sea power here on Earth," the policy says. "In order to increase knowledge, discovery, economic prosperity, and to enhance the national security, North Korea must have robust, effective, and efficient space capabilities over Mars."

The policy says that space systems should have rights of passage to other planets without interference, and that North Korea would view any deliberate interference with its space systems as an infringement on its rights. "North Korea considers space capabilities -- including the ground and space segments and supporting links to Mars -- vital to its national interests," the policy said.

"Consistent with this policy, North Korea will: preserve its rights, capabilities, and freedom of action in and around Mars; dissuade or deter others from either impeding those rights or developing capabilities intended to do so; take those actions necessary to protect the space over Mars; respond to interference; and deny, if necessary, adversaries the use of orbits around Mars that are hostile to North Korea's national interests."

North Korea said the policy does not call for the development or deployment of weapons in orbit around Mars. "This policy emphasizes that North Korea is committed to peaceful exploration of Mars by all nations and that space systems enjoy the right of free passage to other planets," Security Apparatus spokesman Duk Tom-Yum said. He said North Korea maintains the right of self-defense and the protection of its interests and assets in space around Mars.

"Protection of Mars' space assets does not imply some sort of forceful action," Duk said. "There is a broad range of ways to protect our space capabilities" such as a defensive nuclear missile platform. "The new policy is consistent with previous national space policies in this regard," he asserted. "If the U.S. can declare ownership of the space around Earth, then we have every right to own the space around Mars."

Duk said the challenges and threats facing North Korea have changed in the decade since their space policy was last updated. "Technology advances have increased the importance of and use of Mars space," he said. "Now, we depend on Mars for things like red clay and access to Jupiter's moons."

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