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Thousands celebrate DPRK's launch

THE Democratic People's Republic of Korea organized a massive rally yesterday to celebrate firing a satellite into space, while accusing Japan of trying to provoke conflict and hailing the "hardening" of its military policy through the widely criticized rocket launch.

The rally came a day before the country was expected to announce Kim Jong Il's election to a third term as chairman of the National Defense Commission.

Footage obtained by reporters in Pyongyang showed a massive crowd of neatly dressed people packed in the main Kim Il Sung Square ?? named after Kim's father, DPRK's founder ?? under a banner reading: "We enthusiastically congratulate on the successful launch" of a satellite.

DPRK claims the rocket it launched on Sunday carried a satellite into space.

The United States and the Republic of Korea, however, say nothing reached orbit and the launch was really a test of its long-range missile technology. They and Japan are leading a campaign in the United Nations to censure the DPRK.

"The imperialists and reactionaries who have committed all kinds of despicable acts, tenaciously pursuing anti-(North Korea) moves to isolate and stifle us, will be driven into a yet tighter corner because of our satellite launch," Choe Tae Bok, a top Workers' Party official, told the rally.

Debate in the UN Security Council on whether to penalize the DPRK for the launch remained stalled.

Later yesterday, the North's military accused Japan of mobilizing warships to find fragments of the rocket, calling it a "vicious act of espionage" and an "intolerable military provocative act" that infringes upon the country's sovereignty, according to a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

The country's main newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, ran a lengthy editorial yesterday lauding Kim and his "great achievement of hardening the country's political and military power in every way ... The future of our republic with heaven-made great commander and politician comrade Kim Jong Il at top of our nation is endlessly glorious," it said.

A day earlier, North Korea released two new videos - one showing Sunday's long-range rocket blasting off and the other a documentary of Kim's public appearances.


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