News / Asia

North Korea Launch Plan Alarms Region

U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Korea Sung Y. Kim. (2011 File)
U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Korea Sung Y. Kim. (2011 File)
North Korea's anticipated ballistic missile launch this month is already drawing reaction from its neighbors and the United States.

Ambassadors of the United States, China, Japan and Russia met separately Monday with South Korean Foreign Ministry officials to strategize.

U.S. Ambassador Sung Kim left the meeting saying he had "no comment."

Later, however, the US Embassy released a statement from the Ambassador concerning his meeting with  Presidential Secretary for Foreign Affairs and National Security Chun Young-woo, First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Ahn Ho-young, and Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Lim Sung-nam.  
 
"Any North Korean launch using ballistic missile technology is in direct violation of UN Security Council Resolutions 1718 and 1874," the statement said. "We call on North Korea to comply fully with its obligations under all relevant UN Security Council Resolutions."

The Chinese ambassador to South Korea, Zhang Xinsen, described the talks with Foreign Ministry officials as "in depth and wide ranging discussions on issues of mutual concern" that included "current matters on the Korean peninsula.”

North Korea maintains the launch is a peaceful attempt to place a satellite into orbit. But the U.S. State Department Saturday said a launch would be a “highly provocative act that threatens peace and security in the region.”

Pyongyang moves closer to launch

The Seoul talks took place as word came North Korea had placed the first stage of its Unha-3 on the launch pad at the Tongchang-ri facility.

The semi-official Yonhap news agency attributes the information to an unnamed South Korean government source.

North Korea on Saturday through its official news agency said a launch would be conducted this month as the country's Committee for Space Technology had “analyzed the mistakes” from April's failed launch and improved the precision and reliability of the Unha-3 rocket and the Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite.

North Korea “must immediately retract its plan and heed the international society's request” because the launch would be a “grave provocative act,” said South Korea's Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-suk at a Monday briefing for reporters.

In China, which is North Korea's sole significant supporter, the official tone is milder. But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei says Beijing  has expressed concern about the planned launch.

“The DPRK [North Korea] is entitled to the peaceful use of outer space but is also subject to relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions,” Hong said.

One of the resolutions prohibits North Korea from continuing all activities related to ballistic missiles. Aerospace experts argue the technology to place a satellite into space is the same as that for developing such missiles.

Japan reacts

North Korea's launch plan has prompted Japan to postpone a second round of talks with North Korean officials that were to be held this week in Beijing. The discussion was to center on the fate of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korean agents over decades.

Japan is moving Patriot anti-ballistic missiles to the southern Ryukyu islands to be ready to shoot down the North Korean rocket should it veer off course.

Local Japanese media report that Aegis warships will move into neighboring waters.  And Japan's defense minister, Satosghi Morimoto, has announced ground, marine and air forces are preparing to deploy on the Okinawan island.

This is similar to preparations Japan took prior to North Korea's last attempt, on April 13, which ended with the three-stage Unha-3 rocket disintegrating over the Yellow Sea minutes after lift-off.

But Japan failed, as promised, to promptly notify the public of the launch through a new sophisticated warning system, known as J-Alert.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda says that will not happen again.

“We will make efforts so that the correction is available to the Japanese people,” Noda said Monday in a group interview.

Noda and his Democratic Party of Japan are fighting for their political survival in a nationwide parliamentary election to be held December 16.

North Korea's announced launch window is from December 10-22 (between 7 a.m. and noon local time). Some analysts predict a blastoff on December 17, the first anniversary of the death of leader Kim Jong Il.

If this one succeeds, it would give the North a significant propaganda victory over the more prosperous South, which has so far failed on its own to put a satellite into space.

“If North Korea successfully launches a satellite it can publicize that the level of their space technology is higher than South Korea's. But I am skeptical whether the North's space technology will pose a serious threat to the South's national security,” says Professor Ryoo Kihl-jae, at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.

 Seoul politics

A more immediate impact is likely to be felt on South Korea's presidential election on December 19 to select a successor to conservative Lee Myung-bak who is limited to a single five-year term.

Some analysts see another North Korean provocation so close to the election giving a boost to conservative Park Geun-hye of the incumbent Saenuri Party, who polls indicate has a slight lead over Moon Jae-in of the liberal Democratic United Party.

“North Korea’s act will not have a big impact on South Korea’s presidential election, and if it does have any effect it will be positive for Park campaign,” says Professor Ryoo.

Liberal South Korean governments prior to Lee's election pursued a “sunshine policy” towards Pyongyang, hoping engagement would lessen tensions. But North Korea's nuclear and missile programs in the last few years have further isolated it from the international community.

Relations with South Korea also have further deteriorated because of military attacks Seoul blames on Pyongyang.

The two Koreas have no diplomatic ties and still technically remain at war after a 1953 armistice, but no peace treaty ever being signed.


Youmi Kim in the VOA bureau in Seoul contributed to this report.

You May Like

Photogallery Oxfam: Ebola Could Be 'Disaster of Our Generation'

Meanwhile, Fidel Castro, the former leader of Cuba, says the Caribbean island nation will 'gladly cooperate' with the US in the fight against Ebola in West Africa More

Multimedia Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

Refugees receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed More

India’s Ruling Nationalist Party Makes Gains in Regional Elections

Bharatiya Janata Party’s huge margin over its rivals puts it on course to form governments in the northern Haryana and western Maharashtra states More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fighti
X
Zana Omer
October 18, 2014 6:37 PM
The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.
Video

Video Church for Atheists Goes Global

Atheists, by definition, do not believe in God. So they should have no need of a church. But two years ago, a pair of British stand-up comedians decided to create one. Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans told the BBC they envisioned “something like church but without God". Their “Sunday Assembly” movement has grown from a single congregation in London to dozens of churches around the world. Reporter Mike Osborne visited with the members of a Sunday Assembly that now meets regularly in Nashville.
Video

Video Robot Locates Unexploded Underwater Mines

Many educators believe that hands-on experience is the best way to learn. Proving that the method works is a project developed by a group of students at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey. They rose up to a challenge posted by the U.S. Department of Defense and successfully designed and built an underwater robot for locating submerged unexploded ordnance. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's JFK Hospital Reopens After Temporary Ebola Exposure

JFK Hospital is Liberia’s largest and one of its oldest medical facilities. The hospital had to close temporarily following the deaths of two leading doctors from Ebola. It is now getting back on its feet, with the maternity ward being the first section to reopen. Benno Muchler has more for VOA News from Monrovia.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Expose Generation Gap

Most of the tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong are students seeking democracy. Idealistic youths say while the older generation worries about the present, they are fighting for the territory's future. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Hong Kong.
Video

Video Liberians Living in US Struggle From Afar as Ebola Ravages Homeland

More than 8,000 Liberians live in New York City, more than in any other city outside of Liberia itself. As VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports, with the Ebola virus ravaging their homeland, there is no peace of mind for these New Yorkers.
Video

Video Kurds See War-Ravaged Kobani As Political, Emotional Heartland

Intense fighting is continuing between Islamic State militants -- also known as ISIS or ISIL -- and Kurdish forces around the Syrian town of Kobani, on the Turkish border. The U.S. said it carried out at least nine airstrikes against Islamic State positions Friday. Meanwhile the U.N. has warned that hundreds of civilians would be massacred if the town falls to the militants. Henry Ridgwell looks at the strategic significance of the city.

All About America

AppleAndroid