North Korea Readies for Provocative Satellite Launch

North Korea Readies for Provocative Satellite Launch

North Korea continues its preparations to launch a satellite in the next several days to honor the 100th anniversary of the birth of the country’s founder despite strong objections by the United States and other countries.  The launch is anticipated between Thursday and Monday.

The United States and other countries have made clear that such a launch would violate two United Nations Security Council resolutions and is a provocative act that will result in consequences if North Korea proceeds. 

For its part, North Korea insists that it is the launch of a remote sensing satellite in the pursuit of peaceful uses of outer space.  It has opened the launch to foreign journalists who have been posting news stories for the past several days.   White House National Security Council staffer Tommy Vietor rebuked the journalists, telling Politico’s Dylan Byers that “you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know this is a propaganda exercise. … Reporters have to be careful not to get co-opted.”   Vietor went on to say that the foreign news corps was being restricted to seeing only “military hardware.  They’re not allowing them to tour the countryside and see the people who are starving.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking today at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD, hinted at concerns that the missile launch could be just the first of other threats North Korea might pose, including the possibility of another nuclear weapons test.  She said the United States is working with other countries, including Russia, China, Japan and South Korea to convince North Korea that “true security will only come from living up to its commitments and obligations, first and foremost to their own people.”

The United States and North Korea signed an agreement on February 29 — the “Leap Day Deal” —  in which the United States agreed to provide food assistance in return for North Korea participating in negotiations to denuclearize the Korean peninsula and meeting its international obligations.  Part of the agreement required North Korea to refrain from conducting launches that use ballistic missile technology, but just two weeks later, on March 16, North Korea announced that it would launch a satellite to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the April 15, 1912 birth of Kim Il-sung, the country’s first leader and grandfather of its current president Kim Jong-un.

The U.S. Government has made clear that if North Korea proceeds with the launch, violating that agreement as well as United Nations resolutions 1718 and 1874 that also prohibit North Korea from conducting launches that use ballistic missile technology, it would be difficult to provide the food assistance since it would be apparent that North Korean officials could not be trusted to fulfill agreements.

The New York Times reports that North Korea notified international aviation authorities that the rocket’s first stage would land in the ocean 90 nautical miles off Kunsan, South Korea and the second stand would drop in the ocean east of the Philippines.

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