World powers urge NKorea to drop satellite launch
03/16/2012 20:21 GMT
by Lachlan Carmichael
WASHINGTON, March 16, 2012 (AFP) - World powers on Friday urged North Korea to drop plans for a satellite launch in order to save a new deal where Pyongyang halts nuclear and missile activities in return for massive food aid.
The United States, Japan, South Korea and Russia -- partners in troubled nuclear disarmament talks with North Korea -- all condemned the isolated Stalinist state's plan to launch a rocket carrying a satellite next month.
China, the remaining partner in the six-party negotiations and the one deemed to have the most influence with Pyongyang, urged "all parties to play a constructive role" in keeping peace on the peninsula.
US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Washington had "grave concerns" about whether a February 29 nuclear-missile-and-food deal could survive as she denounced the satellite launch as "highly provocative."
In a pre-dawn statement, rushed out just hours after the North Korean announcement, Nuland said the satellite launch would be a threat to regional security and breach a United Nations ban imposed after previous launches.
She told reporters later that US diplomats had "unequivocally" warned their North Korean counterparts in negotiations weeks ago that a satellite launch would be a "deal-breaker" as the rocket amounted to a long-range missile.
Raising hopes of eased tensions under the new regime headed by Kim Jong-Un, food aid was announced as part of a deal in which North Korea would halt its nuclear activities including uranium enrichment and allow in UN inspectors.
But Nuland said now at stake is President Barack Obama's administration efforts to move ahead on a long-mulled plan to send 240,000 metric tons of food aid to the impoverished state which suffered a famine in the 1990s.
Though aid was not directly linked to the rest of the deal, she said, the planned rocket launch raised questions over whether Pyongyang had negotiated in "good faith" and could be trusted to carry out the terms for delivering food.
Washington wants a system of monitors to ensure food reaches the needy, such as children and pregnant women, and is not diverted to the army.
In a sign of the matter's urgency, Nuland said, Glyn Davies, the US pointman on North Korea, had by daylight spoken over the telephone to all of Washington's partners in the six-party talks, except for North Korea.
"The agreement is for everyone to use their influence with the DPRK (North Korea) to encourage them not to make this launch and not to violate their international obligations and to recommit to the leap day agreement," she said.
Nuland revealed that officials at the North Korean diplomatic mission to the United Nations in New York had warned the US side of its satellite launch plans before the announcement on the official North Korean news agency.
"Obviously, the (US) individual who took that message was uninstructed at that time, but made very clear what he considered the implications of this to be," Nuland said.
In Seoul, the South Korean foreign ministry said a rocket launch would be a "grave, provocative act threatening peace and security on the Korean peninsula" as it would breach UN Security Council resolution 1874.
It urged the North to "immediately stop this provocative act."
In Tokyo, Japan's chief cabinet secretary Osamu Fujimura urged North Korea to abandon its launch plans, saying any rocket firing would be in contravention of international rules and could damage regional stability.
In Moscow, the Russian foreign ministry said the North Korean announcement "provokes serious concern" and urged Pyongyang to reconsider.
In New York, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on North Korea not to carry out a rocket launch which he warned could breach UN sanctions resolutions.
UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said Ban reaffirmed his call on the North to comply with resolution 1874 from 2009 "which bans 'any launch using ballistic missile technology.'"
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