North Korea Announces Planned Satellite Launch

Posted March 16th, 2012 at 12:00 pm (UTC-5)
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North Korea says it will use a long range rocket to launch a satellite in April — just weeks after agreeing with the United States to suspend long-range missile tests in return for emergency food aid.

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

Questioned about an agreement to deliver 240,000 metric tons of emergency food supplies to North Korea, a State Department spokeswoman said Pyongyang's announcement of the launch would make implementation of the deal “very difficult.” She said the announcement calls into question whether North Korea's word can be trusted.

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.

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 of 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.

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