World powers have urged Pyongyang not to go ahead with its planned satellite launch, warning that it would be in violation of North Korea’s international obligations and a UN resolution banning Pyongyang from conducting ballistic missile launches.
The North Korean state news agency KCNA announced on Friday that it will launch an earth observation satellite next month to mark the 100th birthday of its late founding leader Kim Il-sung.
The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement expressing “serious concern” over the planned launch.
UN Security Council Resolution 1874 prohibits North Korea from conducting launches that use ballistic missile technology, it said, adding, however, that “Russia has never denied North Korea’s sovereign right to pursue peaceful space programs.”
The Unha-3 rocket carrying the Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite is scheduled to lift off from a launch pad in Cholsan, a coastal town in the country's northwest, between April 12 and 16, a spokesman for the Korean Committee for Space Technology said.
The announcement came just two weeks after Pyongyang agreed to suspend uranium enrichment, as well as nuclear and long-range missile tests in return for 240,000 tons of U.S. food aid.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also urged North Korea to drop its satellite launch plans.
"The Secretary-General urges the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) to reconsider its decision in line with its recent undertaking to refrain from long-range missile launches," his office said in a statement.
The United States said it is in consultation with its partners over North Korea’s announcement.
The launch is “in direct violation of its international obligations” and is “highly provocative,” State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland said.
“Such a missile launch would pose a threat to regional security and would also be inconsistent with North Korea’s recent undertaking to refrain from long-range missile launches,” she said, urging North Korea to adhere to its international obligations.
A similar launch in 2009 drew international criticism and led to UN Security Council sanctions. The North claimed the satellite reached orbit but the United States and South Korea said the rocket fell into the Pacific and that the launch was a cover for ballistic missile tests.