North Korea to off long-range rocket
PYONGYANG, North Korea - The Associated Press
Models of North Korean missiles are displayed at a museum in Seoul. REUTERS PhotoNorth Korea announced plans yesterday to blast a satellite into space on the back of a long-range rocket, a surprise move that could jeopardize a weeks-old agreement with the U.S. exchanging food aid for nuclear concessions.
The North agreed to a moratorium on long-range launches as part of the deal with Washington, but argues that satellite launches are part of a peaceful space program that is exempt from international disarmament obligations. The U.S., South Korea and other critics say the rocket technology overlaps with belligerent uses and condemn the satellite program as a disguised way of testing military missiles in defiance of a U.N. ban. The launch is to take place three years after a similar launch in April 2009 drew widespread censure.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the announcement of the launch “highly provocative.” “Such a missile launch would pose a threat to regional security and would also be inconsistent with North Korea’s recent undertaking to refrain from long-range missile launches,” she said in a statement, urging Pyongyang to abide by its international obligations.
Japan urged Pyongyang to abandon the launch, calling it a violation of a U.N. resolution restricting the North’s use of ballistic missile technology, and South Korea’s Foreign Ministry called the plans a “grave provocation.” Liftoff will take between April 12 and 16 from a west coast launch pad in North Phyongan province, a spokesman for the Korean Committee for Space Technology said in a statement carried by state media. He said the launch would be part of celebrations marking the April 15 centenary of the birth of North Korea’s founder, Kim Il Sung.