United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged North Korea to reconsider its plan to launch a satellite in April, while the United States says such a launch could affect plans to deliver food aid to the impoverished nation.
North Korea announced Friday that it will use a long range missile to launch the satellite, just weeks after agreeing with the United States to suspend long-range missile tests in return for 240,000 metric tons of emergency food supplies.
The United States, Russia, South Korea, and Japan all condemned the planned launch, saying it violates a United Nations ban on all North Korean launches using ballistic missile technology. The Reuters news agency quotes a statement from Mr. Ban's office expressing “serious concern” about North Korea's launch plans.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Pyongyang's announcement of the launch would make implementation of the aid deal “very difficult” because it calls into question whether North Korea's word can be trusted. She said the United States would have to rely on North Korean officials to make sure the food is delivered to those in need.
“We make it a practice not to link humanitarian aid with any other policy issues, particularly in the case of the DPRK, and we do want to assist the North Korean people, particularly those who the regime has chosen to neglect. That said, a launch of this kind would abrogate our agreement, would call into question the credibility of all the commitments that the DPRK has made to us, is making in general, including the commitments that we've had with regard to the nutritional assistance, which go to the questions of monitoring and ensuring that any food that we would provide would go to the needy folks and not to the regime elites.”
Nuland also said U.S. special advisor Glyn Davies has been in touch with each of the other members of the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program and urged them all to use their influence with Pyongyang to convince the government to cancel the launch.
In a statement carried by official North Korean media, the North's Korean Committee for Space Technology said a long-range Unha-3 rocket would launch a domestic-built polar-orbiting earth observation satellite. The launch is being promoted as a move to honor the 100th birthday of founding leader Kim Il Sung, which falls on April 15.
The blast-off would come three years after a similar launch in April 2009 drew widespread condemnation as a cover for testing North Korea's long-range missile technology.
Diplomats from the United States, South Korea, China, Russia and Japan are seeking to restart negotiations with Pyongyang aimed at ending the North's controversial nuclear program. Six-party talks broke off more than two years ago and remain stalled.
In a statement earlier Friday, the State Department called the rocket launch announcement “highly provocative” and “a direct violation of (North Korea's) international obligations.” It said the U.S. is consulting closely with its international partners” on what steps to take in response.
South Korea has said the launch would be a grave provocation threatening peace and security across Northeast Asia.
Russia said Friday that the announcement provokes “serious concern.”
A Japanese government spokesman told VOA that Tokyo is “responding by closely collaborating with other concerned governments” including the United States and South Korea.