North Korea Announces Planned Satellite Launch

Posted March 16th, 2012 at 8:50 am (UTC-5)
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North Korea says it will use a long-range rocket to launch a satellite in April. The announcement was made Friday, just weeks after the north agreed with the United States to suspend long-range missile tests in return for emergency food aid.

The United States, Japan and South Korea have condemned the planned launch, saying it violates a United Nations ban on all North Korean launches using ballistic missile technology.

It remained unclear Friday what impact the North Korean announcement would have on U.S. plans to supply 240,000 metric tons of emergency food supplies to the impoverished North. U.S. officials have said planning for the food deliveries are in their final stages.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland early Friday called the rocket launch announcement “highly provocative” and “a direct violation of (North Korea's) international obligations.” A U.S. statement said “we are consulting closely with our international partners on next steps.”

South Korea said the launch would be a grave provocation threatening peace and security across Northeast Asia.

A Japanese government spokesman told VOA that Tokyo is “responding by closely collaborating with other concerned governments” including the United States and South Korea.

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 the late founding leader Kim Il Sung, which falls on April 15.

The blast-off would come three years after a similar launch in April of 2009 that 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.