International Community Condemns North Korean Rocket Launch

Posted April 13th, 2012 at 2:35 am (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 Friday and has been widely seen as a provocation.

The White House quickly released a statement, criticizing the failed rocket launch. Press Secretary Jay Carney said the move threatens regional security and shows that Pyongyang prefers “wasting its money on weapons and propaganda displays while the North Korean people go hungry.”

South Korea also condemned the launch as a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions barring North Korea from conducting ballistic missile tests. Foreign Minister Kim Sung-Hwan said Seoul is looking to respond with “counter measures.”

“Our government strongly condemns North Korea for going ahead with the launch in disregard of the united calls from the international community that the launch plan be scrapped. North Korea should take full responsibility for this.”

Japanese Deputy Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said no debris from the rocket appeared to fall on Japanese territory. But he warned that Japan viewed the act as provocation.

“North Korea has pushed ahead with this launch despite repeated warnings by various countries not to proceed. It is undeniable that this act is an extreme provocation to our nation's security and safety.”

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 on Friday.

The Group of Eight industrialized nations put out a statement saying it would consider “taking measures” to respond to the launch, calling it a threat to regional security.

Observers say Western nations are likely to push for further condemnations and sanctions against North Korea from the U.N. Security Council when it takes up the issue on Friday .

Victor Cha, an Asian affairs advisor to former U.S. president George W. Bush, says tells VOA that the U.S., South Korea and China should hold talks aimed at lessening tensions in the region.

“I know this is a very difficult discussion for these countries. The Chinese, in particular, are reluctant to have this discussion. But this is an increasingly unstable status quo. While we have peace right now, the North Korean regime is headed in a direction where things can only become more destabilizing.”

China, one of North Korea's main strategic allies, called for restraint following the failed launch. The Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Liu Weimin on Friday urged all sides to “maintain calm” and refrain from doing anything “to harm peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.”

Another one of North Korea's neighbors, Russia, criticized the launch. Interfax news agency quoted an unnamed Russian Foreign Ministry official as saying the move contradicts U.N. Security Council mandates.

Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary William Hague 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.

North Korea has admitted the launch failed, to the surprise of some observers. A brief report on North Korean state television said the missile failed to enter orbit, and that scientists and other experts are working to identify what went wrong.

The crash of the missile would be an embarrassment for North Korea's new leader Kim Jong Un, who rose to power following the December death of his father, Kim Jong Il. The rocket launch was meant to be the centerpiece of a month-long celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of the country's founding leader, Kim Il Sung.

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.