North’s envoy tells world to back off at the UN

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North’s envoy tells world to back off at the UN

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su-yong told the UN General Assembly that Pyongyang would respond “with all available self-defensive measures” if anyone tried to stop its “peaceful satellite launch,” which is viewed internationally as a disguised ballistic missile test.

“Our development of outer space for peaceful purposes is a legitimate right of a sovereign state,” said Ri in an address in New York on Thursday, “and our nuclear test is a self-defensive measure to cope with the hostile policy and nuclear threat of the United States.”

His remarks follow widespread concern that North Korea will launch a long-range missile or possibly conduct a fourth nuclear test to mark the upcoming 70th anniversary of the founding of its Workers’ Party on Oct. 10, both of which would violate UN resolutions.

Ri criticized the UN Security Council for its “arbitrary” targeting of Pyongyang, such as passing a resolution preventing it from launching a satellite and prohibiting nuclear tests, calling it a “flagrant violation of justice and international law.”

He also blasted the Commission of Inquiry’s report on the human rights situation in North Korea as a “smear campaign” against Pyongyang led by the United States, a point he concentrated on in last year’s address to the UN as the North bolstered diplomatic activity to salvage its image.

Unlike last year, Ri focused this time on Pyongyang being ready for “constructive dialogue” on peace and security provided that the United States agrees to sign a peace treaty with it.

He pointed out that “the situation on the Korean Peninsula had once again headed to the brink of war” in August.

A land mine explosion on Aug. 4 linked to Pyongyang that maimed two South Korean soldiers near the inter-Korean border led to Seoul resuming propaganda broadcasts via speakers installed at frontline units.

In a denial of responsibility for the maiming, Ri said the situation was “triggered by a small incident whose cause remains unknown” but then highlighted that such incidents occurred frequently during joint military exercises conducted by the United States and South Korea.

“The present armistice agreement in its nominal form can no longer maintain peace on the Korean peninsula,” Ri said. He went on to encourage the United States to take a “bold decision” to replace the armistice agreement that ended the 1950-53 Korean War with an official peace treaty.

Ri distinguished that there are issues “with regard to safeguarding peace on the Korean peninsula” that Pyongyang needs to address separately with South Korea and the United States.

On the same day, Foreign Minister Ri met with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on the sidelines of the General Assembly, where Ban welcomed the Aug. 25 inter-Korean agreement.

The deal helped defuse military tensions on the peninsula during which North Korea declared a “quasi-state of war.”

Several South Korean government officials said on Friday that they now believe North Korea is not likely to blast off a rocket to coincide with its Workers’ Party 70th anniversary, now one week away.

“There is no indication that North Korea’s long-range rocket launch is imminent,” said Kim Min-seok, spokesman for the South’s Ministry of National Defense, on Friday.

This came as Japanese media including Asahi Shimbun reported intelligence agencies of Washington, Seoul and Tokyo confirmed that a North Korean freight train traveled from an arms factory, possibly one in Sanum-dong in Pyongyang, to the launch site in Tongchang-ri, North Pyongan Province, Thursday.

The agencies could not determine what was on the train, though it was speculated it could be rocket parts.

But the Defense Ministry’s Kim said the mobilization of the freight train should not automatically be linked with rocket launch preparations. “The South Korean Defense Ministry should not have to reply to everything reported in Japanese media,” he said, adding that it is normal for freight trains to be mobilized within North Korea.

North Korea transported parts of the upgraded Taepondong-2 ballistic missile from the Sanum-dong factory to a launch site on a freight train before the launch of a long-range missile in December 2012.

Officials speculate that North Korea may focus on holding a flashy, large-scale military parade on Oct. 10 instead of a long-range missile test.

“North Korea has not shown any clear movement toward blasting a long-range missile yet. Taking into consideration that injecting fuel takes seven to 10 days, it will be difficult to blast it on the Workers’ Party founding day,” one defense official elaborated. There is also consideration for the time it takes for assembly of the rocket.

At a parade, Pyongyang could showcase weapons such as its new KN-09 multiple rocket launchers, the road-mobile KN-08 intercontinental ballistic missile with an increased range, high-speed infiltration stealth boats or its submarine-launched ballistic missile, experts pointed out.

Officials indicated that artillery such as SCUD and Rodong missiles and 240-millimeter rocket launchers and armored vehicles have been deployed to Mirim Airport in Pyongyang. In addition, Pyongyang has not yet given the customary notice to authorities at the International Maritime Organization or the International Civil Aviation Organization of a long-range rocket blast.

While North Korea scientists claimed that a long-range missile launch by North Korea was “imminent” in an interview with CNN last month, they denied that a launch date had been determined.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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