International Community Reacts to North Korean Rocket Launch

Posted April 12th, 2012 at 10:00 pm (UTC-5)
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The international community is reacting strongly to North Korea's launch of a long-range rocket, which failed shortly after liftoff and has been widely seen as a provocation.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague issued a statement late Thursday expressing deep concern about the North's action. He said North Korea can expect a strong response from the international community if it continues to develop its missile and nuclear capabilities. He also called on North Korea to suspend all missile and nuclear-related activity and to commit to re-engaging with the international community.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told the French news agency the action was “a violation of international obligations and will increase tensions on the Korean peninsula.” Westerwelle also said the United Nations Security Council must give a strong answer to this violation of international law.

Japanese Deputy Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said there is no indication any debris from the launch fell on Japanese territory. Japan's defense forces, along with the South Korean and U.S. militaries in the region, had deployed anti-missile batteries on land and at sea for a possible shootdown if the rocket flew over Japanese or South Korean territories.

Another Japanese official was quoted as saying Tokyo may consider economic sanctions against North Korea, depending on the response of the international community. The launch prompted emergency security meetings both in Seoul and Tokyo.

North Korean government officials had no immediate comment on Friday's launch but said an announcement would be made “soon.” North Korea had announced previously it would send a three-stage rocket mounted with a satellite into orbit to coincide with Sunday's centenary of the birth of its founding leader, Kim Il Sung. Reporters in Pyongyang who had been told they would be able to view the launch from an observation center were not taken there. At a newsroom set up for visiting correspondents, North Korean officials declined to answer any questions immediately after the failed launch.

Prior to the liftoff, a pedestrian in Pyongyang said the launch would be “a very good thing.” When asked why, the person responded by saying, “North Korea is now among the strong and prosperous countries in the world, and that it is 'our pride' to launch a rocket again.”

The launch plan upended more than one year of painstaking diplomacy aimed at achieving a resumption of six-nation talks to negotiate an end to North Korea's nuclear and missile programs in exchange for needed international aid.