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

US Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra 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.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid