(Photo: Reuters/Lee Jae-Won)
A day after North Korea announced it will launch another satellite this month, believed to be cover for a ballistic missile test and causing concerns in the United States, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda threatened to shoot down the rocket if it threatens Japanese territory.
"The defense minister has today issued orders to prepare for the interception and defense against ballistic missiles," ABC News quoted Noda as saying on Sunday. "If they do indeed go ahead with the launch, then it is indeed very regrettable. Not only our country, but the entire international community must take strong measures to deal with this."
Noda's statement comes the day after Korean Central News Agency quoted the Korean Committee for Space Technology as saying that the North "plans to launch another working satellite, which has been manufactured true to the behest of great leader comrade Kim Jong Il with our own efforts and our own technology."
The launch of Unha-3 rocket from the Sohae Space Center in North Phyongan Province will take place between Dec. 10 and 22, around the time when Kim Jong-un will complete one year in office as the nation's supreme leader, and about eight months after a failed rocket launch in April.
North Korea's sole ally China also expressed concerns Sunday. "China ... expressed its concern about the satellite launch plan of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, saying it hopes relevant parties can act in a way that is more conducive to the stability of the Korean peninsula," Xinhua news agency said. "North Korea has the right to the peaceful use of outer space, but this right is limited by the relevant Security Council resolutions," foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang was quoted as saying.
North Korea notified neighbors, including Japan, of the route of the rocket, South Korea's Yonhap News said Sunday. "The North has notified aviation authorities in nations including Japan that could come under potential danger ... of the timing and expected path [of the rocket]," a senior official was quoted as as saying.
On Saturday, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland responded in a statement, saying, "A North Korean 'satellite' launch would be a highly provocative act that threatens peace and security in the region. Any North Korean launch using ballistic missile technology is in direct violation of U.N. Security Council Resolutions."
Nuland also criticized warped priorities of the isolated and impoverished nation. "Devoting scarce resources to the development of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles will only further isolate and impoverish North Korea," she said. "The path to security for North Korea lies in investing in its people and abiding by its commitments and international obligations."
South Korea has also expressed "serious concern" over the planned launch. The country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Saturday said it was a "long-range missile test in the name of working satellite," and warned that "it will be faced with a strong response." "The launch is a severe provocation as it is ignoring the concern and warning from the international community and is a direct challenge to the international community as a whole," the ministry's statement said.
U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague joined in condemning the planned exercise on Saturday. "Failure to do so [abandon the project] must lead to a further response by the international community, and will damage the prospects for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula," he said in a statement.
The North has launched several long-range rockets in the last one and a half decades, seen as cover for intercontinental ballistic missile tests. Most of the rockets either exploded in midair or failed to put satellites into orbit, but North Korea claims partial success.