Defiant North Korea launches ballistic missile (Third Lead)

April 5th, 2009 - 6:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Tokyo/Washington, April 5 (DPA) North Korea launched a rocket Sunday in defiance of warnings from the US and its Asian neighbours, the South Korean and Japanese governments confirmed.
Pyongyang said it was putting a communications satellite into orbit, but Japan, South Korea and Washington believe the launch was a screen to test a ballistic missile.

North Korea’s official radio station said Sunday the country had successfully sent a satellite called Kwangmyongsong-2 into orbit.

The launch occurred around 11.30 a.m. (0230 GMT) from North Korea’s base on its east coast, officials said.

US President Barack Obama called it a “provocative act”.

“North Korea’s development and proliferation of ballistic missile technology pose a threat to the north-east Asian region and to international peace and security,” Obama said in a statement issued from Prague, where he is to attend a US-European Union summit Sunday.

“We will immediately consult with our allies in the region, including Japan and the Republic of Korea, and members of the UN Security Council to bring this matter before the council.”

Japan requested an emergency Security Council session to deal with questions raised by the launch, a United Nations spokesman said.

Shortly after the launch was confirmed, the Japanese government lodged a protest with the Stalinist state, calling its act a threat to “regional peace and stability”.

Prime Minister Taro Aso condemned the act and said it “cannot be overlooked”.

“We have to say that it is an act of provocation against security and a violation of UN Security Council resolutions,” Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said. “It is extremely regrettable.”

The Japanese government plans to extend economic sanctions against North Korea for another year beyond the April 13 deadline.

The sanctions would ban exports and restrict goods to be carried by those who enter North Korea. Japan imposed bans on the Mangyongbong-92 ferry’s entry into the country, as well as imports, after North Korea test-fired ballistic missiles in July 2006 and conducted a nuclear test in October the same year.

The government would take concerted actions with other nations concerned, the Japanese Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada said, adding that “flying a projectile over another country is extremely problematic even if it (North Korea) has taken procedural steps”.

The defence ministry Saturday mistakenly sent a warning of the launch, and later blamed an error in the communications system.

The Chinese government called for calm to prevail after the Sunday’s launch was confirmed.

“We hope relevant parties will exercise restraint and remain calm, properly handle and jointly safeguard peace and stability in the region,” the foreign ministry said in a statement from Beijing. “China is willing to continue to play a constructive role.”

The White House said the launch of what it identified as a Taepodong 2 missile was in violation of a UN Security Council resolution that bans Pyongyang from conducting ballistic missile activities.

“With this provocative act, North Korea has ignored its international obligations, rejected unequivocal calls for restraint, and further isolated itself from the community of nations,” Obama said.

The president said the US would work with allies, including Japan and South Korea, to bring the issue to the Security Council. Tokyo had already requested an emergency meeting of the body in New York.

“I urge North Korea to abide fully by the resolutions of the UN Security Council and to refrain from further provocative actions,” Obama said.

US State Department spokesman Fred Lash said the launch “prompts the US to take appropriate steps to let North Korea know that its development, deployment and proliferation of ballistic missiles, missile-related materials, equipment and technologies, pose a serious threat to the north-east Asian region and to the international community.”

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