North Korean Rocket Launch, North Korea said it would carry out its second rocket launch of 2012 as its youthful leader Kim Jong-un flexes his muscles a year after his father’s death, in a move that South Korea and the United States swiftly condemned as a provocation. North Korea’s state news agency announced the decision to launch another space satellite on Saturday, just a day after Mr. Kim met a senior delegation from China’s Communist Party in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang.
China, under new leadership, is North Korea’s only major political backer and has continually urged peace on the Korean peninsula, where the North and South remain technically at war after an armistice, rather than a peace treaty, ended the 1950-53 conflict.
China’s Foreign Ministry said it was deeply concerned by the move, but urged calm.
“North Korea has a right to the peaceful use of space, but this right has been restricted by UN Security Council resolutions. (China) hopes all sides can do more to benefit peace and stability on the peninsula, and hopes all sides handle it calmly to avoid the situation escalating,” ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a statement.
In Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland condemned the launch plan as a provocative threat to the Asia-Pacific region that would violate United Nations resolutions imposed on Pyongyang after past missile tests.
“A North Korean ‘satellite’ launch would be a highly provocative act that threatens peace and security in the region,” she said in a written statement.
North Korea has notified its neighbours of the proposed flight path, an unnamed South Korean official told Yonhap news agency on Sunday, saying that it would take a similar path to a failed rocket launch in April this year.
That was supposed to take the rocket over seas separating China and the Korean peninsula where the first stage of the rocket would drop into the sea, then to pass over Okinawa. The second stage was to fall in seas off the Philippines.
Pentagon spokesman George Little said, “North Korea must abide by its international obligations under UN Security Council resolutions that clearly articulate what it can and cannot do with respect to missile technologies.”
Seoul’s foreign ministry called the move a “grave provocation.” Japan’s Kyodo news agency said Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda had ordered ministries to be on alert for the launch.
“North Korea wants to tell China that it is an independent state by staging the rocket launch and it wants to see if the United States will drop its hostile policies,” said Chang Yong-seok, a senior researcher at the Institute for Peace Affairs at Seoul National University.