United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon on Thursday urged North Korea against going ahead with a planned rocket launch as the North showed no signs of abandoning what the U.S. and its allies consider an attempt to test long-range missile technology.
“I hope that the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) authorities will heed the calls of the international community,” Ban told a news conference in Geneva.
The communist state has announced its plan to launch a Unha-3 (Galaxy-3) rocket, ostensibly carrying a satellite payload, between Thursday and Monday to mark the centenary of the birth of founding leader Kim Il-Sung on Sunday.
Ban said the launch was “clearly a violation” of U.N. Security Council resolution 1874 adopted in 2009 that demanded North Korea halt any further nuclear tests and any launches using ballistic missile technology.
“If and when the DPRK launches this, what they say is a satellite or missile, I believe member states will bring this matter to the Security Council,” said the U.N. secretary general, according to an AFP report.
“It seems to me that, considering that they have taken measures today by inviting foreign journalists to show them their launching pad, that they may proceed, unfortunately.
“We are very much concerned about this.”
Poor weather made a Thursday launch unlikely, Philippine disaster management agency chief Benito Ramos told the Associated Press, citing an assessment he received from the Philippine military, which is being briefed by U.S. and Japan counterparts. Wind in particular can scuttle rocket launches.
The United States, Japan, Britain have also said the launch would be a provocation and would violate U.N. Security Council resolutions banning North Korea from developing its nuclear and missile programs. Experts say the Unha-3 carrier is similar to the type of rocket that could be used to fire a missile mounted with a nuclear warhead to strike the U.S. or other targets.
Japan's parliament adopted a resolution Thursday condemning the scheduled rocket launch.
“A launch is a serious act of provocation that would affect peace and stability in the region that includes our country,” Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said, reading the resolution adopted unanimously at the lower house. “We strongly urge North Korea to use self-restraint and not to carry out a launch.”
Meanwhile, neighboring countries remained on alert.
South Korea's Defense Ministry said it was prepared to shoot down any rocket that strays into its territory.
China’s U.N. envoy said on Thursday that “everything possible” should be done to defuse tension over North Korea’s plan to conduct a long-range rocket launch that has drawn international criticism.
“We have got to do everything possible to defuse tension rather than enflame the situation there. So I think we should do everything possible to make sure that peace and stability is maintained,” Chinese U.N. Ambassador Li Baodong told reporters.
Also, U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said on Thursday the G8 countries are urging North Korea to meet commitments and refrain from provocations.
North Korea denies that the launch is anything but a peaceful civilian bid to send a satellite into space. The Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite is designed to send back images and data that will be used for weather forecasts and agricultural surveys.
Pyongyang made two previous attempts to launch a satellite, in 1998 and 2009, but the U.S. and other outside observers say there is no evidence that either reached orbit. This week's planned launch came with more fanfare, with Pyongyang inviting a possibly unprecedented crowd of foreign journalists and other guests.