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North Korea seen preparing for rocket launch
Publication Date : 16-02-2013
Seoul, Washington, Tokyo speed up talk on anti-Pyongyang sanctions
North Korea appeared to be preparing for another long-range rocket launch at its northeastern Musudan-ri test site Friday, adding to the security jitters fanned by its third nuclear test on Tuesday.
Presenting its analysis of recent commercial satellite imagery, the US-based “38 North” website said a flurry of activities in the test site indicated Pyongyang might be preparing to lift off a modified Musudan intermediate-range missile or a new KN-08 long-range rocket.
Dedicated to the analysis of the communist state, the website is run by the US-Korea Institute under the School of Advanced International Studies at the Johns Hopkins University in Washington.
The analysis came amid the speculation that the North could conduct additional underground nuclear tests in its northeast Punggye-ri site despite international condemnation for violating a series of UN Security Council’s resolutions.
The North unveilled the KN-08 missile on April 15 last year during a ceremony to mark the centennial of the birth of its late former leader and national founder Kim Il-sung. Experts speculated that it might be a new intercontinental ballistic missile.
The Musudan ballistic missile with a range of 3,000-4,000 km is North Korea’s longest-range one. Deployed since 2007, this missile, in theory, brings Guam, a key US strategic base in the Asia-Pacific region, within striking range.
Should it launch another long-range rocket, the North, which argues it has miniaturised and lightened its nuclear warheads, would pose a grave security challenge to South Korea, Japan and the US, experts noted. In December, the North successfully launched a rocket, which experts presume had a range of 10,000km.
Amid increased tension on the peninsula, Seoul, Washington and Tokyo are striving to craft their own or bilateral sanctions to punish the North for the nuclear test. They apparently believe that the UN Security Council might not be able to come up with tougher sanctions with Beijing calling for “calm and restraint”.
Seoul is accelerating its work to devise its own sanctions against the North. Some officials said that it could finalise the work before the new administration takes office on February 25.
The Rodong Sinmun, the daily of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, warned on Friday that Seoul’s toughened sanctions against it would spark “retaliatory strikes”. Saying that there would be nothing to achieve from harsher sanctions, its editorial threatened to make Seoul pay the “high price”.
After its nuclear test on Tuesday, the North’s foreign ministry spokesperson said that sanctions by “hostile forces” would be regarded as an act of war and be met with retaliatory strikes.
The US has expressed its resolve to sternly handle the North’s provocations, indicating that its measures against the North would be linked to its efforts to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
“Just as it’s impermissible for North Korea to pursue this kind of reckless effort, so we have said it’s impermissible with respect to Iran. What our response is with respect to this will have an impact on all other nonproliferation efforts,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said after his meeting with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh at the State Department on Wednesday.
“The international community needs to come together for a swift, clear response, and this is about proliferation, and it’s also about Iran because they’re linked.”
Observers said that the allies might seek to introduce fresh financial sanctions, the inspection of the North’s maritime cargo or sanctions on foreign vessels that have called at North Korea’s ports.
It is unlikely that Seoul and Washington would seek to include Article 42 of UN Chapter 7, which offers grounds for military action, in a fresh sanction against the North as China and Russia could oppose it quoting Article 42, experts said.