North Korea launches rocket despite warnings

Sunday, April 5, 2009

TOKYO/WASHINGTON - North Korea launched a rocket Sunday, in defiance of warnings from the US and its Asian neighbours, the South Korean and Japanese governments confirmed.

Pyongyang had said it was putting a communications satellite into orbit, but Japan, South Korea and Washington believe the launch was a screen to test a ballistic missile.

The launch occurred around 11.30 a.m. (0230 GMT) from North Korea’s base on its east coast, officials said.

US President Barack Obama called it a ‘provocative act’.

Pyongyang fired what it said was a communications satellite around 11.30 a.m. (0230 GMT) from North Korea’s east coast, but Japan, South Korea and Washington believe the launch was a screen to test a long-range ballistic missile.

‘North Korea’s development and proliferation of ballistic missile technology pose a threat to the north-east Asian region and to international peace and security,’ Obama said in a statement issued from Prague, where he is to attend a US-European Union Summit Sunday.

‘We will immediately consult with our allies in the region, including Japan and the Republic of Korea (South Korea), and members of the UN Security Council to bring this matter before the council.’

Japan requested an emergency Security Council session to deal with questions raised by the launch, a UN spokesman said.

‘The UN is aware that the missile launch has occurred,’ UN spokesman Brent Superville said.

The Chinese government called for calm to prevail.

‘We hope relevant parties will exercise restraint and remain calm, properly handle and jointly safeguard peace and stability in the region,’ the foreign ministry said in a statement from Beijing. ‘China is willing to continue to play a constructive role.’

The White House said the launch of what it identified as a Taepo-dong 2 missile was in violation of a UN Security Council resolution that bans Pyongyang from conducting ballistic missile activities.

‘With this provocative act, North Korea has ignored its international obligations, rejected unequivocal calls for restraint, and further isolated itself from the community of nations,’ Obama said.

The president said the US would work with allies, including Japan and South Korea, to bring the issue to the Security Council.

‘I urge North Korea to abide fully by the resolutions of the UN Security Council and to refrain from further provocative actions,’ Obama said.

US State Department spokesman Fred Lash said the launch ‘prompts the US to take appropriate steps to let North Korea know that its development, deployment and proliferation of ballistic missiles, missile-related materials, equipment and technologies, pose a serious threat to the north-east Asian region and to the international community.’

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