N. Korea threatens third nuclear test after rocket launch

By Korea Herald

Published : Apr 4, 2012 - 20:48
Updated : Apr 4, 2012 - 20:48

Image of the Yongbyon, North Korea nuclear reactor site in March 2002. (MCT)

U.S., Japan renew warning; N. Korea vows to go ahead with launch; Manila to divert flights to shun debris 



North Korea hinted on Wednesday that it could conduct a third nuclear test if the U.S. and its allies put additional sanctions on the North over its planned rocket launch in mid-April.

The Chosun Shinbo, a newspaper published in Japan by an association of pro-Pyongyang Korean-Japanese residents, pointed out Wednesday that Pyongyang had conducted a second nuclear test after the U.N. Security Council imposed sanctions on the North in 2009.

“The U.S.’s words and deeds denouncing the launch of Kwangmyongsong-3 is like encouraging us to wind back the time table to April 2009,” the paper said.

The North launched a missile in April 2009 and conducted a second nuclear test in May.

The U.S. and its allies have raised concerns that the North’s planned rocket launch to put a satellite into orbit in mid-April could be a precursor to a third nuclear test.

The U.S. and Japanese governments renewed their warning to North Korea to drop its plan to launch a satellite. The U.S. and its allies see the plan as a pretext to test a long-range ballistic missile.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and his Japanese counterpart Naoki Tanaka discussed “developments related to North Korea’s announcement that it plans to conduct a missile launch in mid-April,” Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told reporters in Washington.

“Secretary Panetta and Defense Minister Tanaka reiterated their view that such a missile launch would directly violate North Korea’s international obligations and U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1718 and 1874,” he said.

“They also affirmed the importance of the U.S.-Japan alliance in defense of Japan and in contributing to regional peace and security.”

Despite international condemnation that a rocket launch would violate U.N. Security Council resolutions, North Korea has repeatedly said it would put a satellite into orbit on a rocket sometime between April 12 and 16 in celebration of the 100th year since late founder Kim Il-sung’s birth.

Ri Gun, director-general of the North American affairs bureau of the North’s foreign ministry, told reporters in Beijing that the North will go ahead with its rocket launch plan as scheduled.

He said that the North has the right to launch Kwangmyongsong-3, as every other nation has the sovereign right to “peacefully” develop space programs.

His comments came after he met with former U.S. government officials including Thomas Pickering, former under secretary of state for political affairs, in Berlin.

With mounting international concerns over the North’s rocket launch, the Philippines’ civil aviation authority said it would divert flights to and from Japan and South Korea to coincide with a planned North Korean rocket launch over fears of falling debris.

Air routes from Japan and South Korea to the Manila airport will be closed on April 12-16, when Pyongyang is expected to fire the rocket into orbit, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines spokeswoman Joy Songsong said.

Tanaka recently ordered Japan’s missile units to intercept a North Korean rocket if it or its fragments threaten Japan’s territory.

The Unha-3 rocket is expected to fly past western Japan after its launch from North Korea’s west coast between April 12 and 16.

By Kim Yoon-mi and news reports (yoonmi@heraldcorp.com)

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