Provocations Rise on All Sides as North Korean Prepares to Launch Satellite

April 2nd, 2009 - by admin

Jon Herskovitz / Reuters & Blaine Harden / Washington Post – 2009-04-02 22:59:41

North Korea Starts Fuelling Rocket, Makes New Threat
Jon Herskovitz / Reuters

SEOUL (April 2, 2009) — North Korea has begun fuelling a long-range rocket and could launch it by the weekend, CNN said, with the United States and others threatening punishment for a move they say violates U.N. resolutions.

Pyongyang has said it will send a satellite into orbit between April 4-8, but the United States, South Korea and Japan say the launch is a disguised test of the long-range Taepodong-2 missile, which is designed to carry a warhead to U.S. territory.

Senior U.S. military officials quoted by broadcaster CNN on Wednesday said the fuelling indicates the rocket could be ready to launch by the weekend. North Korea’s rocket plans have clouded discussions of the G20 meeting of global leaders in London.

Japan has sent missile-intercepting ships along the rocket’s flight path, which takes it over the Asian economic power, and said it could shoot down any debris such as falling booster stages, that threatens to strike its territory.

North Korea, which has issued numerous threats concerning the launch, used some of its strongest language in its latest rhetorical blast, with a spokesman for the North’s military saying it will “deal a retaliatory lightening of fire” against Japan if it tries to shoot down the rocket.

“If Japan recklessly ‘intercepts’ the DPRK’s (North Korea’s) satellite for peaceful purposes, the Korean People’s Army will mercilessly deal deadly blows not only at the already deployed intercepting means but at major targets,” the spokesman was quoted as saying by the North’s KCNA news agency.

The North has deployed the newest jet fighters in its aging air force to a field near the Musudan-ri launch site to prepare for any contingencies, South Korea’s biggest daily Chosun Ilbo quoted government sources as saying.

The launch will be the first big challenge for U.S. President Barack Obama in dealing with the prickly North, whose efforts to build a nuclear arsenal have long plagued ties with Washington.

In London on Wednesday, a U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity on the sidelines of a G20 meeting, said Washington would respond to any North Korean launch by raising the matter in the U.N. Security Council.

The United States, Japan and South Korea say they see no difference between a satellite and a missile launch because they use the same rocket, the Taepodong-2, which exploded shortly into its only test flight in July 2006.

They say the launch would violate U.N. Security Council resolutions imposed after the missile’s test in 2006 and the North’s only nuclear test a few months later.

Any attempt to punish North Korea will infuriate Pyongyang, which has also threatened to restart a plant that makes arms-grade plutonium and quit nuclear disarmament talks if the United Nations takes action.

Analysts said they expect China, a veto-wielding member of the U.N. Security Council and the closest thing Pyongyang can claim as a major ally, to block any new sanctions or attempts to tighten the enforcement of existing ones.

Traders in Seoul, used to the North’s saber rattling, shrugged off the latest development, but analysts said an attempt to shoot down the rocket would increase the chance of conflict in North Asia, which accounts for one-sixth of the global economy.

The launch is a risk for the cash-strapped North. A failure would hurt missile sales, one of its few export businesses, and embarrass North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, 67, whose suspected stroke in August raised questions about his grip on power.

A successful launch, just ahead of the annual meeting of North’s parliament next week, would put to rest any questions about Kim’s power, analysts said.

(Additional reporting by Jack Kim, Kim Junghyun and Park Jung-youn in Seoul, Isabel Reynolds in Tokyo and Caren Bohan in London, Editing by Dean Yates)

© 2009 Reuters
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

North Korea Warns It Will Shoot Down US Jets
Blaine Harden / Washington Post

TOKYO (April 2, 2009) — Having alarmed much of the world with its planned launch of a long-range missile, North Korea is showing no signs this week of wanting anyone to calm down. The government of Kim Jong Il warned Wednesday in a radio broadcast that its forces “will relentlessly shoot down” US reconnaissance aircraft that monitor preparation for its missile launch, which could occur as early as this weekend.

That warning against “brigandish US imperialists” came on top of North Korea’s announcement Tuesday that it would put on trial for “hostile acts” two American journalists who were detained in mid-March after they apparently crossed from China into North Korea.

On Monday, North Korea said it had a detained a South Korean worker in a joint industrial complex in the North for criticizing the country’s political system and encouraging women to defect.

North Korea, a heavily armed but nearly broke communist dictatorship, has long specialized in provoking the international community and then collecting a measure of tribute by pledging to behave more responsibly. It exploded a small nuclear device in 2006, and less than a year later signed a deal with the United States and four other countries to abandon its nuclear program in return for food, fuel and diplomatic concessions. That deal is now stalled.

This spring, the headline-making provocation is a three-stage missile that sits on a launchpad in the northeast of the country. It is scheduled for launch sometime between April 4 and April 8.

North Korea says the rocket is part of a peaceful research project to send a communications satellite into orbit. The United States says the real purpose of the launch is to test a Taepodong-2 ballistic missile that could reach the Western United States — and could one day carry a nuclear warhead.

Russia has urged North Korea to cancel the launch, and China, North Korea’s closest ally and principal benefactor, has hinted that it is not pleased.

Early this week, the United States, Japan and South Korea deployed ships with US-made anti-missile systems to monitor the launch. But if the North Korean missile does send a satellite into orbit, these three countries have all said they have no intention of trying to shoot it down.

Experts who have examined recent satellite photographs of the rocket said its payload is probably a satellite-like device. Still, the flight trajectory of the launch takes it over northern Japan, and the Japanese government said last week that if the rocket fails in flight, Japan might use missiles to destroy falling debris that could imperil its territory.

© 2009 Hearst Communications Inc.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.