SEOUL – [AAP] North Korea has told UN agencies it plans to launch a satellite as early as next week, a move that could advance the country’s long-range missile technology after its fourth nuclear test on January 6.
News of the planned launch between February 8 and February 25 drew fresh US calls for tougher UN sanctions already under discussion in response to North Korea’s nuclear test. State Department spokesman John Kirby said the United Nations needed to ‘send the North Koreans a swift, firm message.’
Pyongyang has said it has a sovereign right to pursue a space program by launching rockets, although the United States and other governments worry that such launches are missile tests in disguise.
‘We have received information from DPRK regarding the launch of earth observation satellite ‘Kwangmyongsong’ between 8-25 February,’ a spokeswoman for the International Maritime Organisation, a UN agency, told Reuters.
The International Telecommunication Union, another UN agency, told Reuters North Korea had informed it on Tuesday of plans to launch a satellite with a functional duration of four years, in a non-geostationary orbit.
It said the information provided by North Korea, whose official name is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, was incomplete, and that it was seeking more details.
US officials said last week that North Korea was believed to be making preparations for a test launch of a long-range rocket, after activity at its test site was observed by satellite.
The White House said on Tuesday that any satellite launch by North Korea would be viewed as ‘another destabilising provocation.’
US Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel, the senior US diplomat for East Asia, told reporters it ‘argues even more strongly’ for tougher UN sanctions.
Russel said a launch, ‘using ballistic missile technology,’ would be an ‘egregious violation’ of North Korea’s international obligations.
He said it showed the need ‘to raise the cost to the leaders through the imposition of tough additional sanctions and of course by ensuring the thorough and rigorous enforcement of the existing sanctions.’
Russel said negotiations were ‘active’ at the United Nations and that the United States and North Korea’s main ally China ‘share the view that there needs to be consequences to North Korea for its defiance and for its threatening behaviours.’
‘Our diplomats are in deep discussion in New York about how to tighten sanctions, how to respond to violations,’ he said.