North Korea defends rocket launch

Diplomat warns of "strong steps" if UN moves to implement fresh sanctions.

    North Korea said Sunday's launch successfully placed an experimental satellite into orbit [AP]

    In depth


     Photo: N Korea's launch site
     Video: N Korea's arsenal
     North Korea: A state of war
     Outcry over N Korea rocket
     Watch N Korea rocket launch

    China and Russia are both opposed to any fresh sanctions.

    North Korea says Sunday's launch successfully placed a satellite into orbit around Earth, but the US and South Korea said the rocket's upper stage and its payload crashed into the Pacific ocean east of Japan.

    They believe the launch was a cover to test a long-range missile which could reach as far as the US west coast.

    'Infringing on sovereignty'

    A satellite image shows the vapour trail left by the rocket launch [EPA/DigitalGlobe]
    Speaking at UN headquarters on Wednesday Pak said that if the 15-member security council "takes any kind of steps, we will consider this infringes upon the sovereignty of our country. The next option will be ours".

    The North has said previously that it will abandon long-running six-nation nuclear disarmament talks if any fresh UN sanctions are imposed.

    "Every country has the inalienable right to use outer space peacefully," Pak insisted, adding that many countries had already launched satellites into space hundreds of times.

    He said that if it was all right for them to launch satellites, "but we are not allowed to do that, that's not fair".

    Pak also insisted that the three-stage Taepodong-2 rocket that was launched carried a satellite and not a missile test.

    "This is a satellite. Everyone can distinguish [between] a satellite and a missile," he said.

    Divisions remain

    North Korea says it has a right to a peaceful space programme [AFP]
    China, the North's sole major ally, has said Pyongyang has the right to the peaceful use of space.

    Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said world leaders should "avoid any hasty conclusions" over the launch.

    With divisions remaining, the US has hinted it may not insist on a binding UN resolution.

    Meanwhile, Pyongyang released footage of the launch, labelling it as a "historic" achievement - despite a price tag of an estimated $500 million on the satellite programme.

    Critics have said the money spent on the rocket launch could better have been spent on feeding the millions of North Korea who live under the daily threat of starvation.

    State media said that Kim Jong-il, the North Korean leader, was "choked with sobs" that the money spent on the launch could not be used for the basic needs of North Korean residents, but said they would understand.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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