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“Some parties insist our peaceful space program is a missile test,” he told foreign reporters given an exclusive tour of the nation’s main satellite command center. “We don’t really care what the outside world thinks. This launch is critical to developing our space program and improving our economy.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday that the launch would be a direct threat to regional security and that the U.S. would pursue “appropriate action” at the Security Council if North Korea goes ahead with it.

This launch would be the country’s third attempt since 1998. Two previous rockets, also named Unha, were mounted with experimental communications satellites and sent from the east coast.

North Korean officials say the 2009 satellite reached orbit, but the U.S. and other outside observers say they have seen no evidence that it did.

The new title Kim Jong-un received Wednesday is among several political appointments and promotions expected this week. He was unveiled as father Kim Jong-il’s choice as successor at a similar party conference in September 2010.

Party delegates shouted, “Hurrah!” as they elevated Kim Jong-un to the top party post. He already has been declared supreme commander of the armed forces and is expected to gain other new titles formalizing his position as “supreme leader” of North Korea’s people and party.

The immortalization of Kim Jong-il has provided a glimpse into how North Korea will treat the nation’s second hereditary succession. After Kim Il-sung died in 1994, he was declared the country’s “eternal president,” and Kim Jong-il ruled as chairman of the National Defense Commission.

Kim Jong-un could be promoted to chairman of the National Defense Commission, said Peter Beck, a Korea specialist at the Asia Foundation.

However, even after his new titles are revealed, much about North Korea’s leadership may remain murky, analysts said.

“North Korea is less monolithic than it looks from the outside, and, particularly as a new top leadership establishes itself in the wake of Kim Jong-il’s death, there will be as many questions raised as answers provided by the political choreography,” said John Delury, an assistant professor at Yonsei University in Seoul who has made several trips to North Korea in recent years.

Associated Press writers Tim Sullivan in Pyongyang and Foster Klug in Seoul contributed to this report.