North Korea plans to launch long-range rocket

Sunday, March 18, 2012

On Friday, North Korea announced that the country will launch a satellite mounted to a long-range rocket into orbit, as a celebratory action for late leader Kim Il Sung's 100th birthday.

Kim Il Sung portrait (2007)
Image: Gilad.rom.

The statement caused international concern as North Korea agreed to stop its nuclear program and weapon testing just 16 days earlier. In return, the United States would give 240,000 metric tons of food to the famine-stricken North Korea.

The launch is scheduled to take place between April 12 through the 16.

Such a missile launch would pose a threat to regional security ...

U.S. State Department

"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," said U.S. State Department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland. "We call on North Korea to adhere to its international obligations, including all relevant U.N. Security Council Resolutions. We are consulting closely with our international partners on next steps."

If North Korea goes through with the launch, U.S. officials said that the food aid deal could be threatened.

South Korea claims that the launch is a "clear violation" of United Nations Security Council resolutions. North Korea launched a similar satellite over northern Japan in 2009.

Osamu Fujimura, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, stated that the country has "set up a crisis management taskforce," and is working with the U.S. and South Korea on the issue.

"We believe a launch would be a move to interfere with our effort toward a dialogue, and we strongly urge North Korea not to carry out a satellite launch," Fujimura said.

The U.S. and South Korean governments believe the satellite program is a disguise for long-range missile tests. The technology for launching both is similar and unrecognizable to outsiders.

The satellite, Kwangmyongsong-3, will be launched from the northwest near China’s border, at Solace Satellite Launching Station. A North Korean spokesman said that next month’s launch is an opportunity for "putting the country's technology of space use for peaceful purposes on a higher stage."