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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged North Korea to “refrain from provocation” and warned of consequences if it doesn’t, as the first day of North Korea’s timetable to fire a long-range rocket passed.
“We urge the North Korean leadership to honor its agreements and refrain from pursuing a cycle of provocation,” Clinton said yesterday after a meeting in Washington of foreign ministers from the Group of Eight -- Russia, Italy, the U.K., France, Canada, Japan, Germany and the U.S.
Saying North Korea may take action in the “next hours or days,” Clinton told reporters, “All the members of the G-8 are in agreement that we will have to be prepared to take additional steps if the North Koreans go ahead.”
North Korean state media made no announcements about sending a satellite into orbit during the scheduled hours of 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. local time yesterday. Bad weather made a liftoff unlikely on the first of a five-day window, Kyodo News reported from Pyongyang, citing an unidentified North Korean government official.
The U.S., South Korea and Japan have repeatedly said the launch threatens regional security and jeopardizes a February agreement to halt missile and nuclear tests in exchange for American food assistance. Countries in the region were on alert to guard against rocket debris that my fall into their territory.
“We are continuing efforts to strongly urge North Korea not to go through with the launch,” Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda told parliament in Tokyo yesterday. “We are watching developments closely and are prepared to respond as necessary.”
North Korea disputes the contention that the launch planned for April 12 to April 16 violates UN resolutions. The government says it is putting a weather satellite into orbit as part of celebrations of the April 15 centennial of leader Kim Jong Un’s grandfather, state founder Kim Il Sung, and not conducting a long-range missile test.
Clinton challenged the North Korean position, quoting from a UN Resolution yesterday.
“The Security Council, and I quote, ‘demands that the DPRK not conduct any further nuclear tests or any launch using ballistic missile technology,’” she said.
Clinton added, “There is no doubt that this satellite would be launched using ballistic missile technology.”
If North Korea launches a missile, “we will all be back in the Security Council to take further action,” Clinton said.
So far, weather has interfered with North Korea’s stated plans. Clouds over Tongchang-ri in the country’s northwest, where the coastal Sohae Satellite Launching Station is located, were expected to persist today and clear up by tomorrow, South Korea’s Meteorological Agency official Chang Im Tae said yesterday.
Japan has dispatched troops to its southern island of Okinawa, deployed interceptor missiles and sent Aegis destroyers to the Japan Sea and East China Sea in case the rocket strays into Japanese territory.
The Philippines, near where the projectile’s debris is expected to fall, ordered an emergency alert for 50,000 soldiers, Civil Defense Administrator Benito Ramos said.
South Korean and U.S. forces are “closely monitoring” the planned launch by operating a joint intelligence surveillance system, the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman Lee Bung Woo said on April 9.
Clinton affirmed U.S. statements that a rocket launch would scuttle a February deal to provide 240,000 tons of food aid in exchange for a moratorium on long-range missile and nuclear weapons testing. A South Korean intelligence report this week said Kim’s regime may detonate an atomic device after the launch.
“It’s regrettable because, as you know, we had worked through an agreement that would have benefitted the North Korean people with the provision of food aid,” Clinton said yesterday. “But in the current atmosphere, we would not be able to go forward with that, and other actions that other countries had been considering would also be on hold.”
UN sanctions first adopted in 2006 and strengthened in 2009 following North Korea’s first two nuclear tests have failed to persuade the country to abandon its atomic development program. China, North Korea’s only ally and largest trading partner, has resisted calls to push for change from Kim’s regime.
“The current policy of North Korea serves the ruling elite extremely well,” said Andrei Lankov, an associate professor at Kookmin University in Seoul. “There is no need for them to change this policy.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Sangwon Yoon in Seoul at firstname.lastname@example.org Nicole Gaouette in Washington at email@example.com
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