Special Report: DPRK to Launch Satellite, U.S., S
Korea Hold Drill
BEIJING, March 25 (Xinhua) -- Hostilities have been
increasing recently on the Korean Peninsula after the Democratic People's
Republic of Korea (DPRK) announced its intention to launch a communications
satellite in early April.
The United States, South Korea and Japan have said
the satellite is a disguised test-launch of a long-range ballistic missile and
have threatened to intercept it using their missile defense systems.
DPRK: INTERCEPTION MEANS
On March 9, the DPRK said it will launch a war on the
territory of the U.S., Japan and South Korea, if its satellite launching "for
peaceful purpose" was intercepted.
On Tuesday, the DPRK warned that it would leave the
six-party talks aimed at ending its nuclear weapons program if the U.S. and
Japan intercept the rocket.
It insisted that an interception of its rocket, which
was part of a peaceful space program of the DPRK, would ruin the foundation of
the six-nation talks.
That's because the U.S. and Japan would have denied
the right of the DPRK to develop space for peaceful purposes and violated its
sovereignty under the name of the United Nations, the official KCNA news agency
cited a Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying.
It is a legitimate right for every country to
develop a peaceful space program, the spokesman said, adding that the U.S. and
Japan should take the responsibility for ruining the six-party
KEY RESOLVE: OFFENSIVE OR
On March 9, the U.S. and South Korea launched the
annual joint military exercise Key Resolve-Foal Eagle. The exercise, timed just
before the DPRK's planned launch, was larger in scale and duration than previous
The exercise was extended from the original four to
five days to 12 days and involved 26,000 U.S. servicemen, including 13,100
stationed outside South Korea. The U.S. also mobilized the USS John C. Stennis,
a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier of the U.S. Navy's 3rd Fleet and a few Aegis
destroyers for the exercise.
U.S. Army General Walter Sharp, commander of U.S.
forces in South Korea, insisted that it was "a routine training exercise that
takes place every year at about the same time. It is not tied in any way to any
political or real-world event."
The exercise prompted the DPRK to put its military on
"full combat readiness," saying it viewed the joint land and sea exercise as
prelude to an invasion.
The rocket the DPRK said it will fire is expected to
drop a booster stage in the Sea of Japan and then pass over the north of the
Kyodo News agency reported that the Japanese
government is expected to issue an order as early as Friday calling for the
destruction of debris or parts of the missile that fall toward Japan, allowing
the defense minister to deploy interceptors in areas where the fragments are
likely to fall.
However, Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone
said on Tuesday that his country would find it difficult to intercept debris,
saying Japan's missile defense system has yet to be tested in action.
But Japanese defense expert Tetsuo Maeda said the
missile defense system on Aegis-equipped destroyers and the ground-based Patriot
Advanced Capability-3 system could be effective to some extent.
Japanese media has reported that the country may also
deploy two Aegis-equipped destroyers carrying sea-based Standard Missile-3
interceptors to the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean.
On Monday, USS Stethem, the U.S. Navy's guided
missile destroyer originally based in Yokosuka near Tokyo, entered port in
Aomori in northern Japan.
As a matter of fact, to intercept or not has become a
difficult choice for the United States.
Firstly, opinions are divided on whether the DPRK
rocket is being used for launching a satellite or a ballistic missile. Gen.
Walter Sharp said last week that North Korea has been deploying new
intermediate-range ballistic missiles capable of hitting Alaska.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted an
unidentified intelligence official as saying authorities "strongly believe" the
launch will take place on April 4-5 and believe it will involve a long-range
missile, not a satellite.
However, U.S. National Intelligence director Dennis
Blair told the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 10 that "the North
Koreans announced that they were going to do a space launch and I believe that's
what they intend."
If the DPRK has concrete proof that a civil satellite
has been launched, using military forces to target it will hardly win support
from the international community.
The DPRK has warned that any attempt to shoot down
the rocket would be regarded as an act of war. Would the U.S risk a war?
Secondly, like its ally Japan, the U.S. is not 100
percent sure of a successful interception.
Analysts said the U.S. has the capability to
intercept a missile headed for Alaska or Hawaii, but the systems are largely
untested. "You don't know until you shoot if you are going to hit it or not,"
Ralph Cossa, president of the Hawaii-based think tank Pacific Forum CSIS, said.
Recently, the Barack Obama administration has become
less tough on the launch, urging to refrain from trying to intercept the rocket
and revive the stalled missile talks with the DPRK.
"Over-reaction would be shooting down the missile,
taking out the missile from the launch pad, suspending or terminating the six
party talks," said Frank Jannuzi, staff member of the Senate Committee on
Foreign Relations and key foreign policy adviser to the Obama administration.
"North Korea may be aiming to revive the negotiations
stalled at the end of the Clinton administration," Jannuzi said.
On March 11, U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton
talked about the "need to have a conversation about missiles" with the DPRK.
Clinton also said "a range of options" could be
pursued against Pyongyang if it tests a long-range ballistic missile, including
seeking action in the U.N. Security Council.
Japan has warned the DPRK of more sanctions if the
country goes ahead with a rocket launch. Prime Minister Taro Aso has said he
would bring the case to the United Nations Security Council.
On Tuesday, the European Union warned that the DPRK
rocket launch "would be seen as a breach of U.N. Security Council Resolution
1718, and it would send a wrong signal to the international community."
On Tuesday, a DPRK Foreign Ministry spokesman blasted
Washington and Tokyo's attempts to impose UN sanctions on his country's
These countries' attempts to submit the DPRK
satellite issue to the UN was in violation of the spirit of "mutual respect and
equality" stated in the 2005 six-party talks statement, he said.