N.Korea's plan for rocket launch stirs regional concern

Fri Mar 16, 2012 5:14pm EDT
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By Jack Kim and Jeremy Laurence

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea said on Friday it will launch a long-range rocket carrying a "working" satellite to mark the centenary of founder Kim Il-sung's birth next month, sparking condemnation from the United States and others that it was in breach of a U.N. resolution.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the announcement was highly provocative and called upon Pyongyang to honor its obligations including U.N. Security Council resolutions banning ballistic missile launches.

"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.

The North, which said recently it would suspend long-range missile testing as part of talks with the United States, pledged that next month's launch would not impact neighboring countries.

Experts said the launch was clearly another long-range missile test, and could be seen as an act of brinkmanship to pressure Washington into more talks in return for aid.

South Korea, which is still technically at war with the North after signing only an armistice to end the 1950-53 Korean War, and Japan said the ballistic launch threatened regional security.

Any launch by North Korea, whether for a satellite or not, that uses ballistic missile technology violates Security Council resolutions, the Japanese government said.

"We urge North Korea to exercise restraint and refrain from the launch," said the top government spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura.   Continued...

A North Korean Television KRT news reader announces the launch of a working satellite to mark the 100th birthday of Kim Il-sung in Pyongyang March 16, 2012 in this still image taken from video. North Korea will celebrate the centenary of the birth of its founder and father of late leader Kim Jong-il on April 15. The launch will take place between April 12 and 16, according to state media. REUTERS/KRT via Reuters TV