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Controversial satellite launch by North Korea triggers alarm

P.S. Suryanarayana


South Korea pledges to take “concrete

counter-measures”

China emphasises need for “calm” and

advocates a constructive approach


SINGAPORE: The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on Sunday announced the “successful” launch of an indigenous communications satellite.

However, scepticism about North Korea’s “claim” lingered for hours after the satellite was “placed in orbit.” An official spokesman in neighbouring Japan described the event as the launch of a “flying object.” He was talking to The Hindu over telephone from Tokyo after Japan detected the first signs of the launch. Japan, South Korea, and the United States were already in a state of military alert against the possibility of a threatening or wayward launch.

The DPRK’s state news agency, as monitored in Seoul, said a home-made three-stage rocket, Unha-2 (Milky Way), carrying the satellite, lifted off the launch pad at 11.20 a.m. local time. And, the satellite, with an unspecified profile, was safely put in orbit, nine minutes and two seconds thereafter. Circling the earth at distances varying from 490 km. to 1,426 km., the satellite would take 104 minutes and 12 seconds for each orbit, the state agency said. The controversial launch, however, set the stage for an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council. Led by the United States, several countries denounced North Korea for its implicit action of testing a dual-use rocket with potential military applications. South Korea, the DPRK’s ethnic neighbour, pledged to take “concrete counter-measures.”

In this climate of views that Pyongyang had now defied concerted international calls for restraint, China emphasised the need for “calm” and advocated a constructive approach in addressing the issues at stake.

Japan took the initiative for the emergency U.N. debate. Japanese spokesman Yasuhisa Kawamura told The Hindu that North Korea had now acted in “clear violation of the [relevant] U.N. Security Council Resolutions.” Regardless of Pyongyang’s latest versions, Mr. Kawamura said, the Resolutions, passed after its earlier missile and nuclear-weapon tests, “clearly prohibit North Korea from developing ballistic missile technology.”

The “bottom-line,” according to the Japanese official, was the likely “negative impact on peace and stability in East Asia.” So, the focus now was to ensure “appropriate action by the Security Council.” He said the first “part” of North Korea’s “flying object” fell into the sea at a point about 280 km. west off Japan. The second “part” fell into the Pacific Ocean, about 1,270 km. off Japan’s eastern coast. In the event, Japan or the U.S. did not have to deal with any threatening “debris.”

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