China’s foreign minister said yesterday that Beijing is troubled by North Korea’s plan to launch a long-range rocket and has urged more diplomacy to handle the situation, a measured response to a provocation that has unsettled the region.
Meanwhile, a South Korean official said yesterday that North Korea appears to be preparing for a third nuclear test after the rocket launch.
Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi (楊潔篪) said he discussed North Korea’s launch plan during trilateral talks with his counterparts from Seoul and Tokyo in Ningbo, China.
The foreign ministers of Japan and South Korea both said that a launch would violate UN Security Council resolutions.
However, China, the North’s closest ally, did not echo that view and instead urged further dialogue and communication.
“The Chinese side is troubled by the developments, and strongly encourages everyone involved on all sides, at high and low levels, to remain calm and reasonable,” Yang told reporters. “These issues need to be worked out in a diplomatic and peaceful manner.”
Meanwhile, preparations are under way in the North Korean town of Punggye-ri, where the North carried out two previous tests of a nuclear bomb in 2006 and 2009, a South Korean official said on condition of anonymity.
“Recent satellite images led us to conclude the North has been secretly digging a new underground tunnel in the nuclear test site,” the source said.
Construction of the new tunnel appears to be nearly complete, he said. The North tested atomic weapons in October 2006 and May 2009. Both were held one to three months after missile tests.
Furthermore, Patriot missiles were deployed on Saturday at the Japanese defense ministry in downtown Tokyo and at two other bases in the region to protect the greater Tokyo area.
The ministry also dispatched three Aegis destroyers carrying interceptor missiles, reportedly to the East China Sea, beneath the rocket’s forecast flight path.