Ex-Aide Says N. Korean Satellite Launch Violates Agreement with U.S.

Posted March 22nd, 2012 at 12:40 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

A former senior White House aide on Asia policy says North Korea's recently announced plan to launch a satellite into orbit would violate an agreement with the U.S. on the suspension of ballistic missile testing.

Victor Cha, the former director of the National Security Council for Asian Affairs, says when Pyongyang agreed last month to suspend missile tests, that “clearly” included a moratorium on satellite launches, as well.

“There really is no distinction between their (proposed) satellite launch and a ballistic missile test, since they use the same technology to get this vehicle into orbit. There really is no difference.”

Cha said North Korea was the only country that makes a distinction between satellite launches and ballistic missile tests, calling the announcement a “slap in the face” to the international community.

North Korea said on Friday it would launch a satellite into orbit in mid-April for “peaceful scientific purposes.” It says the launch does not violate the agreement with the United States.

Last month, North Korea agreed to suspend uranium enrichmen, and allow the return of United Nations weapons inspectors and stop long-range missile tests. At the same time, the United States agreed to send North Korea desperately needed food aid.

The launch has also been condemned by Russia, South Korea and Japan, who say it violates an international ban prohibiting North Korea from using ballistic missile technology.

But Cha says international pressure is unlikely to convince North Korea to reverse course, because the launch was announced as part of plans to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the late leader Kim Il Sung, the founder of the communist state.

Earlier this week, Japan said that it has the right to intercept the North Korean missile, if it becomes necessary to protect Japanese national security.

Cha says that North Korea's neighbors have every right to be concerned about the launch, because past endeavors by North Korea have resulted in failure, sending debris crashing into the Pacific Ocean.

“The danger with the so-called satellite launches is that, if they fail, they can drop pieces of the missile on stuff underneath the ascent path and that could be Japan. So I think the Japanese see this as a true national security risk, not because the North Koreans are aiming at Japan, but because we know nothing about the technology of this missile and whether it will be successful.”

Similar attempts by North Korea to launch satellites in 1998 and 2009 are widely regarded to have failed. But North Korea insists that it has successfully launched at least one satellite into orbit, where it remains today, broadcasting patriotic songs.