North Korea's plan for new rocket launch stirs concern across region

Pyongyang says it will put satellite into orbit to mark centenary of country's 'Great Leader' Kim il-Sung

Seoul

North Korea shocked its major international foes – the US, South Korea and Japan – by announcing plans yesterday to fire a long-range missile that in theory would be capable of reaching the west coast of America.

The move seriously jeopardises the secretive communist state's recent pact to secure food aid from the US in return for nuclear concessions.

North Korea said the purpose of the missile launch, from a site near its western coast, would be to put a satellite into orbit, but officials and analysts saw the explanation as cover-up for a test similar to one conducted three years go that prompted condemnation from the United Nations as well as tougher sanctions.

The launch will take place between 12 and 16 April from a site in North Phyongan province, a spokesman for the Korean Committee for Space Technology said in a statement carried by state media. It will coincide with massive celebrations surrounding the centennial on 15 April of the birth of the nation's "Great Leader" Kim Il-sung, who ruled for nearly half a century before dying in 1994, leaving power to his son, Kim Jong-il, who died in December.

The announcement put a question over the country's agreement with the US for food aid in exchange for a moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile testing.

Officials in Washington, Japan and South Korea strongly attacked the North Korean plan, which was revealed after visits by Kim Jong-il's third son, the North's new "Supreme Leader" Kim Jong-un, to military units just above the demilitarised zone that has divided the two Koreas since the Korean War.

The plan for firing the missile again increases regional tensions after hopes were raised in some quarters by the US-North Korea deal of 29 February. Despite optimism in Washington, South Koreans have been sceptical of a pact which they widely view as a North Korean attempt at deceiving the US while bypassing the South.

The North Korean announcement evoked memories of similar launches in August 1998 and April 2009 that Pyongyang insisted had put satellites into orbit. Analysts say no satellites were detected and the purpose was to test the North's Taepodong missile, which has the potential of carrying a nuclear, biological or chemical weapon as far as Hawaii, Alaska or even the western seaboard of the US. Doubts here have increased in recent days, while Kim Jong-un has urged soldiers to be on high alert, primed to "wipe out" South Korea's "traitor" President Lee Myung-bak South Korean officials have shrugged off such talk, but the government said that a North Korean missile test, under the pretext of launching a satellite, would be "a grave provocation."

Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, hinted at the damage that the firing of another long-range missile could do to the agreement with North Korea, under which the US is to provide 240,000 tons of food aid. She warned that a missile launch would "pose a threat to regional security and would also be inconsistent with North Korea's undertaking to refrain from long-range missile launches."

Japan said the launch would violate UN restraints on the North's use of ballistic missile technology and endanger "peace and stability."

The view in South Korea is that a missile launch could derail the programme at least until further talks between thE US and the North. "Controversy will arise," said Kim Tae-woo, president of the Seoul-based Korea Institute for National Unification. "The US will have to postpone food aid. It should not be allowed."

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
Pepper, the 3ft 11in shiny box of circuits who can tell jokes and respond to human emotions
techDavid McNeill tests the mettle of one of the new generation of androids being developed in Tokyo
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Linux Systems Administrator

£33000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly successfu...

(Junior) IT Systems Administrator / Infrastructure Analyst

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly ...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice