Seoul, Tokyo threaten to intercept North Korean rocket debris

SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of - South Korea and Japan vowed to shoot down any debris that falls on their territories from a long-range rocket that North Korea plans to fire this month, with Seoul saying Thursday that it has detected launch preparations by Pyongyang.

See Full Article

North Korea has informed international organizations that it will launch an observation satellite aboard a rocket between Feb. 8 and 25. South Korea, the United States and others say such a move would be a cover for a banned test of a missile that could strike the U.S. mainland.

The launch announcement follows an outpouring of global condemnation over the North's fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6. If North Korea's past patterns are any clue, angry warnings by Seoul, Washington and their allies probably won't dissuade a coming launch.

South Korea's Defence Ministry said Thursday that the North is pushing ahead with the launch plans at its west coast Tongchang-ri launch site. Spokesman Moon Sang Gyun said South Korea is using Aegis-equipped destroyers, aircraft, sophisticated radars and other surveillance assets to monitor the North's launch preparations but refused to provide further details.

Recent commercial satellite images showed an increased number of vehicles at North Korea's Sohae launch station on Feb. 1, compared to a week earlier. This suggests that the North is preparing for a space launch in coming weeks, according to 38 North, a North Korea-focused website run by the U.S-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

However, the website said it was impossible to tell from the satellite imagery whether a space launch vehicle was present.

South Korean and U.S. officials said a launch would threaten regional security and violate UN Security Council resolutions that ban the North from engaging in any nuclear and ballistic activities.

Diplomats at the UN Security Council have already pledged to pursue fresh sanctions on North Korea over its recent nuclear test.

South Korea's president on Thursday called for strong UN sanctions that will make North Korea realize it cannot survive if it does not abandon its weapons programs.

There are questions, however, over whether any sanctions will force real change in the North because China, the North's last major ally and a veto-wielding UN Security Council member, is reluctant to join in any harsh punishment against the North.

Beijing on Wednesday urged restraint over North Korea's announcement of its launch plans, and expressed skepticism over the U.S. calls for tough new sanctions.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the North Korean announcement "will further aggravate the profound concerns that the international community already has in the wake of the recent nuclear test," a spokesman said.

In South Korea and Japan, there are fears about falling debris, although nothing landed in their territories during the North's most recent launches. Seoul officials estimated the first stage of the rocket would fall off the west coast of South Korea, more debris would land near the South's Jeju Island, and the second stage would land off the Philippines' east coast.

Moon, the South Korean military spokesman, said that South Korea would fire missiles to intercept the North Korean rocket or its fragments if they threaten to fall on its territories. Japan's defence minister said Wednesday he issued a missile-shoot-down order and deployed Aegis destroyers and PAC-3 missile defence units to around Tokyo and Okinawa in case debris fall on the Japanese territory.

Seoul and Tokyo issued similar plans before North Korean rocket launches in recent years.

North Korea has spent decades trying to develop operational nuclear weapons along with missiles capable of striking the mainland United States.

North Korea's last long-range rocket launch, in December 2012, was seen as having successfully put the country's first satellite into orbit after a string of failures. Each new rocket launch improves North Korea's missile technology, which is crucial for its goal of developing a nuclear-armed missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland.

North Korea, an autocracy run by the same family since 1948, is estimated to have a handful of crude nuclear devices and an impressive array of short- and medium-range missiles, but it closely guards details about its nuclear and missile programs. This means there is considerable debate about whether it can produce nuclear bombs small enough to place on a missile, or missiles that can reliably deliver their bombs to faraway targets.

-----

Associated Press writers Kim Tong-hyung in Seoul and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Syrian refugee thanks Canada for 'amazing' two years

    Canada News CTV News
    Two "amazing" years have passed since Syrian refugee Najeeb Al Masri and his family arrived in Canada from Turkey. The engineering student spoke with CTV News Channel Sunday about the challenges of adjusting to life in Toronto, where he landed with his family in December 2015. Source
  • Snow in the GTA expected to cause traffic headaches during Monday afternoon rush hour

    Canada News CTV News
    Southern Ontario’s first dose of snowfall is expected to cause some headaches for afternoon commuters Monday. Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement for every district in southern Ontario except for Algonquin and Renfrew-Pembroke-Barry’s Bay. Source
  • Maritime Link sends first electricity between Newfoundland, Nova Scotia

    Canada News CTV News
    HALIFAX -- For the first time, electricity has been sent between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia through the new Maritime Link. The 500-megawatt transmission line was tested Friday, but won't go into commercial operation until early in the New Year. Source
  • Former Georgian president Saakashvili appears in court in Ukraine

    World News CTV News
    KIEV, Ukraine -- Mikheil Saakashvili, the former Georgian president turned opposition leader in Ukraine, appeared in court Monday in the Ukrainian capital for a hearing on whether he should continue to be held in custody. Source
  • Putin lands in Egypt in sign of growing ties

    World News CTV News
    CAIRO -- Russian President Vladimir Putin, making his second visit to Egypt in as many years, held talks Monday with his Egyptian counterpart on their countries' rapidly expanding ties. Egypt's general-turned-president, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, has visited Russia three times since the ouster of his Islamist predecessor in 2013. Source
  • Putin visits Egypt in sign of growing ties

    World News CTV News
    CAIRO -- Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Egypt on Monday, where he signed a deal to advance plans for a nuclear reactor but disappointed his hosts by delaying the resumption of direct flights that were suspended after the 2015 bombing of a Russian passenger plane. Source
  • LIVE UPDATES: Garnier's defence lawyer argues Campbell died accidentally during rough sex

    Canada News CTV News
    HALIFAX -- Christopher Garnier has taken the stand at his trial in the death of off-duty police officer Catherine Campbell. His lawyer opened the defence case this morning by saying Campbell died accidentally during rough sex. Source
  • LIVE UPDATES: Garnier tells Halifax murder trial off-duty cop asked him to choke her

    Canada News CTV News
    HALIFAX -- Christopher Garnier says Catherine Campbell coaxed him into choking her during sex play, and urged him to apply more pressure before she died. Garnier is on the stand today at his trial in the off-duty police officer's death; his lawyer opened the defence case by telling the jury Campbell died accidentally during rough sex. Source
  • Cryptocurrency fraud doubled to $1.7M in Canada this year

    Canada News CBC News
    Canadians have been swindled out of than $1.7 million via scams involving cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin so far this year — more than double the amount during all of 2016. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre says that's more than five times the amount people lost to these types of scams in 2015, which was roughly $284,000. Source
  • Everything you always wanted to know about somebody else's God in 15 minutes

    Canada News CBC News
    The bell rings and groups of people spring to their feet. It's time for the next table. Pat Simpson just finished talking with a woman about Islam and now wants a seat at the Bahá'í table. Source