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

  • Japan heads to polls in snap election

    World News CBC News
    Japanese are voting in a general election that will most likely hand Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling coalition a majority in parliament.Japan wrestles with future of its pacifist constitution ahead of election Sunday'We're scared, obviously': Japanese worry over growing North Korean nuclear threatsUp for grabs Sunday are 465 seats in the more powerful lower house, which chooses the prime minister. Source
  • Japan votes for lower house; PM Abe's party seen headed for win

    World News CTV News
    TOKYO -- Japanese are voting in a general election that will most likely hand Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling coalition a majority in parliament. Up for grabs Sunday are 465 seats in the more powerful lower house, which chooses the prime minister. Source
  • 5 living ex-presidents attend Texas hurricane relief concert

    World News CTV News
    AUSTIN, Texas -- All five living former U.S. presidents will be attending a concert Saturday night in a Texas college town, raising money for relief efforts from Hurricane Harvey, Irma and Maria's devastation in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Source
  • Pair of Hip-loving teachers urge colleagues to 'teach like Gord'

    Canada News CTV News
    Following Gord Downie’s passing, a pair of teachers in Clinton, Ont. are urging their colleagues to use The Tragically Hip frontman’s words to inspire a new generation through a social media campaign they’ve dubbed ‘Teach Like Gord. Source
  • Three injured as small plane goes down in Saint-Lazare, west of Montreal

    Canada News CTV News
    SAINT-LAZARE, Que. - Three people have been injured in a small plane crash in a western suburb of Montreal. Emergency services received a call at about 4:20 p.m. about a small Cessna that landed in a tree on a private property in Saint-Lazare, Que. Source
  • True crime notebook [Photos]

    World News Toronto Sun
    The body count is relentless. Americans kill other Americans at a rate that would have made the Viet Cong envious. Once in a while, stepping away from horrific massacres like the bloodshed in Las Vegas, Sandy Hook and elsewhere, you will find the true American Horror Show. Source
  • Virginia school's football season cancelled over players' racist simulated sex video on Snapchat

    World News Toronto Sun
    SHORT PUMP, Va. — A middle school football team in Virginia has forfeited the remainder of its season after players made a racially insensitive video. The video posted on Snapchat shows football players simulating sex acts on their black peers, WWBT-TV reported. Source
  • 'I think they got lost and were suffering in 100-degree heat'; Missing couple's deaths in Joshua Tree believed to be 'sympathetic murder-suicide'

    World News Toronto Sun
    SAN FRANCISCO — Friends and relatives of a couple whose bodies were found in Joshua Tree National Park say they believe the two got lost while hiking in the sprawling desert park and struggled in the searing heat with little food or water before they died in a “sympathetic murder-suicide. Source
  • Democratic chairman calls Trump 'most dangerous' president ever

    World News CTV News
    LAS VEGAS -- Navigating ongoing rifts on the political left, Democratic Party Chairman Tom Perez said party unity is crucial in the fight against U.S. President Donald Trump, whom he lambasted as an "existential threat" to the nation. Source
  • Anti-Trudeau, anti-racism demonstrators clash in Toronto; four arrested

    Canada News CTV News
    A group of anti-Trudeau protesters and anti-racism counter-demonstrators clashed in Toronto on Saturday. According to organizers, the anti-Trudeau protest was planned as a means of expressing displeasure with the Liberal government’s tax policies, spending and controversial multi-million dollar settlement with former Guantanamo Bay inmate Omar Khadr. Source