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North places rocket on pad as world concerns intensify

Japan considers shooting down missile after its launch   PLAY AUDIO

Mar 27,2009
Musudan-ri, North Korea, formally known as the Taepodong missile launch facility, where North Korea’s rocket launch pad is located, is seen in this satellite image by DigitalGlobe taken on March 23, 2009. North Korea has positioned what is believed to be a long-range ballistic missile on a launch pad in what could be a preparation for launch, a U.S. counterproliferation official said March 25. [REUTERS/ DigitalGlobe/ Handout]
North Korea has placed what appears to be a rocket on a launching pad, U.S. and Japanese reports said yesterday.

The reports prompted strong reactions from South Korea, the United States and Japan, with leaders calling the North’s action a violation of a United Nations Security Council resolution that bans the country from engaging in ballistic missile-related activity.

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry warned yesterday that any sort of response by the United Nations Security Council to its rocket launch will lead to the breakdown of the six-party talks and will nullify its denuclearization process.

“Even so much as a word that condemns our peaceful satellite launch will be a violent, hostile action toward us,” a spokesman for the ministry told the official Korean Central News Agency. “And that will lead to the disappearance of six-party talks, and all the steps we’ve taken to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula will be for naught.”

According to AFP, Japan’s Prime Minister Taro Aso said the country’s security council will meet this week to discuss possibly shooting down the North Korean rocket if it threatens to reach Japan. The North has said any attempt to intercept its satellite would result in war.

NBC News, citing anonymous U.S. officials, reported that the North has positioned a Taepodong-2 ballistic missile on the launch pad at its base in Musudan-ri, North Hamgyong Province. Japan’s Kyodo News also reported that the North has placed the missile on the pad.

North Korea has already informed international agencies that it plans to launch what it claims is a communications satellite between April 4 and 8. Officials in South Korea, the United States and Japan have said any launch will be cover for a ballistic missile test because the same technology is used for satellites and missiles. The Taepodong-2 can theoretically reach Alaska.

The North’s first testing of this missile failed three years ago.

According to the projected trajectory submitted by the North to the International Civil Aviation Organization, parts of the North’s multi-stage rocket would drop into the East Sea, while the rest would fall into the Pacific Ocean between Japan and Hawaii.

Hillary Clinton, the U.S. secretary of state, called the North’s planned launch “a provocative action” that would have consequences. “We have made it very clear that the North Koreans pursue this pathway at a cost and with consequences to the six-party talks, which we would like to see revived,” Clinton said during her visit to Mexico City. “We intend to raise this violation of the Security Council resolution, if it goes forward, in the United Nations.

“This provocative action in violation of the UN mandate will not go unnoticed and there will be consequences,” Clinton added.

Wi Sung-lac, the South’s top negotiator in six-party denuclearization talks, said the launch would be in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1718, adopted in 2006 following the North’s nuclear test. It also imposes sanctions if North Korea engages in ballistic missile-related activities.

Wi met with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei earlier this week in Beijing. After the meeting, Wi said, “South Korea and China agreed that there should be a response from the international community to the North’s rocket launch.”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Moon Tae-young said if North Korea goes ahead with the launch, “the issue will be raised at the UN Security Council.”

The Defense Ministry here echoed the view that the launch would be in violation of the UN resolution. Defense Ministry spokesman Won Tae-jae said the South Korean armed forces are “sufficiently prepared” for the launch, in conjunction with the United States forces stationed here.

Military sources said the South plans to deploy the Aegis destroyer King Sejong the Great on the east coast. South Korean Navy officials say the 7,600-ton warship equipped with the Aegis combat system is capable of detecting and tracking ballistic missiles.

Neither Moon nor Won confirmed media reports that the rocket has been placed on the launching pad because the government doesn’t comment on intelligence matters.

A high-ranking government official, who asked for anonymity, acknowledged that members of the six-party talks still have “some differences to overcome” as far as what measures should be taken following the North’s rocket launch.


By Yoo Jee-ho [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]



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