Global Security Newswire
Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues
South Korea Demands North Abandon Rocket Launch Plans
South Korea on Thursday demanded that the North cancel plans to fire a long-range rocket into space next month, the Yonhap News Agency reported (see GSN, March 22).
"North Korea's plan to launch a so-called 'application satellite' will be a clear violation of the United Nations Security Council resolution 1874," Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan said. The 2009 measure forbids the Stalinist state from conducting "any launch using ballistic missile technology."
Kim told journalists the looming missile launch will be brought up in one-on-one and multinational meetings on the margins of next week's Nuclear Security Summit in the South Korean capital.
"The government strongly urges North Korea to immediately stop such a provocative action and comply with its international obligations," the top diplomat said, describing the planned mid-April event as a "highly provocative act to develop a long-distance delivery means for nuclear weapons by using ballistic missile technology" (Yonhap News Agency I/Korea Times, March 22).
Kim also dismissed a recent warning by Pyongyang against using next week's Seoul summit as a platform to criticize its nuclear weapon program, the Christian Science Monitor reported.
"Individual issues will not be discussed at the nuclear summit. I do not know why they keep saying that," Kim said. "This is a peace summit, dedicated to coming out with rules to keep terrorists from acquiring and using nuclear weapons" (Donald Kirk, Christian Science Monitor, March 22).
Should Pyongyang carry out its plans to launch a long-range rocket over the East China Sea sometime between April 12 and 16, the move is expected to severely dampen prospects for restarting the long-paralyzed six-nation process aimed at irreversible North Korean denuclearization, USA Today reported.
Pyongyang and Washington announced in late February they had struck a bargain that would send 240,000 metric tons of U.S. food assistance to the impoverished North in return for its monitored shutdown of uranium enrichment activities at the Yongbyon complex and a moratorium on further long-range missile and nuclear tests. The shutdown in nuclear weapon-related work would fulfill a crucial requirement by the United States, Japan, and South Korea for the renewal of the six-party talks, which also include China and Russia.
The Obama administration has said it would likely cancel the food assistance to the North if it moves forward with its missile launch plans.
By carrying out the satellite launch, "[the North Koreans] may choose to deepen their isolation and to further strengthen the international sanctions that are constraining them," White House National Security Council Senior Director for Asian Affairs Daniel Russel said. "That would be unfortunate, and we think that that would be a mistake that will only exacerbate the problems that North Korea faces and the suffering of the North Korean people."
Pyongyang insists it has the right to carry out activities related to space exploration and accuses the United States of hypocrisy for opposing other countries' attempts to place satellites into orbit.
Seoul, Tokyo, and Moscow have all condemned the planned launch, while Beijing has taken a more measured approach. In several high-level direct talks with the North, Chinese officials expressed their serious concern about the rocket launch.
Chinese President Hu Jintao is likely sympathetic to the North Korean dictatorship's contention that the rocket launch will be nonmilitary in nature, Center for Strategic and International Studies Asia analyst Michael Green said.
"It's enough of an excuse that China and others may say we should give them a pass -- they've agreed, after all, to allow (U.N.) inspectors into (the uranium enrichment plant at) Yongbyon," he said (Aamer Madhani, USA Today, March 22).
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday said he intends to discuss the rocket launch with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak at the upcoming nuclear security forum, Agence France-Presse reported.
"I will also engage [on the matter] with other leaders attending the nuclear summit," Ban said to reporters in Malaysia (Agence France-Presse/Channel News Asia, March 22).
Washington and other governments say that North Korea uses satellite launches as a front for tests of its long-range ballistic missile technology, the Associated Press reported.
The North's last attempt in April 2009 to place a satellite into space, which was unsuccessful, involved a Unha 2 rocket. Pyongyang has said next month's test would utilize a Unha 3 rocket.
The launch is take place from North Korea's missile facility at Tongchang-ri, according to an analysis by GlobalSecurity.org's Tim Brown.
The Unha 3 rocket presumably will be equipped with better working engines and boosters and could even achieve what no other North Korean booster launch has achieved by placing a satellite into orbit -- that is, if the rocket is actually equipped with one, according to South Korean missile scientist Sohn Young-hwan.
As satellite-carrying rockets and ballistic missiles "share the same bodies, engines, launch sites and other development processes, they are intricately linked," International Institute for Strategic Studies analyst Mark Fitzpatrick said.
Former Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Siegfied Hecker agrees: "You use the same technology in long-range rockets that you do in long-range missiles. The only difference is what you put on top."
At present, North Korea only has the means to deliver nuclear weapons via bombers, ships or vehicles, according to Hecker.
The aspiring nuclear power is understood to have enough processed plutonium to fuel a minimum of six "simple" weapons, but is not yet believed to have developed a warhead small enough to be mounted onto a missile.
The North would have to conduct more nuclear tests if it wants to build smaller warheads. Should Pyongyang carry out a third such test, "it will almost certainly be a test of a miniaturized design," Hecker said (Foster Klug, Associated Press/Google News, March 23).
On Friday, the Japanese government put in place plans for a missile intercept attempt should it perceive the Unha 3 rocket is a danger to its territory, AFP reported.
"I have ordered officials to prepare the [Patriot Advanced Capability 3] and Aegis warships," Japanese Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka told journalists (Agence France-Presse II/Raw Story, March 23).
Meanwhile, the Japanese and South Korean representatives to the six-nation talks met in Seoul for strategy talks on possible responses to a North Korean rocket launch, Yonhap reported.
South Korean nuclear negotiator Lim Sung-nam and his Japanese counterpart, Shinsuke Sugiyama, "discussed how the two nations would respond if North Korea goes ahead with its plan to launch a satellite using a long-range rocket," an unidentified South Korean Foreign Ministry official said (Yonhap News Agency II, March 23).
The United States and Japan also agreed to closely align their responses to a North Korean rocket launch, Jiji Press reported.
The agreement was reached on Thursday following a conversation between Tanaka, the Japanese defense minister, and U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos and U.S. commander of Pacific Forces Lt. Gen. Burton Field (Jiji Press, March 22).
Building Mutual Security in the Euro-Atlantic Region: Report Prepared for Presidents, Prime Ministers, Parliamentarians, and Publics
April 3, 2013
This report is the result of a Track II dialogue including distinguished former senior political leaders, senior military officers, defence officials, and security experts from Europe, Russia, and the United States.
April 2, 2013
An op-ed in The International Herald Tribune urging today's leaders to move decisively and permanently toward a new security strategy in the Euro-Atlantic region.
This article provides an overview of North Korea's historical and current policies relating to nuclear, chemical, biological and missile proliferation.