Sat, Mar 28, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Russia advises N Korea against launch

DIALOGUE Moscow called for more consultations with Pyongyang to resolve the issue, while Japan prepared to intercept possible debris from the missile launch

AGENCIES , MOSCOW AND SEOUL

Russia said yesterday that North Korea should abstain from launching a rocket and called for dialogue with Pyongyang to resolve the situation.

“We understand that the current situation in the region of Northeast Asia is tense, and this is why it would be better if our partners in North Korea abstained from this, from this launch,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Borodavkin told journalists.

Pyongyang has said it will launch a communications satellite between April 4 and April 8, but regional powers believe the real purpose is to test a long-range missile, the Taepodong-2, which is believed to be already in place on its launch pad.

Russia shares a small border with North Korea in the Far East and its main Pacific port of Vladivostok lies only 150km from the North Korean border.

Japan ordered its military yesterday to prepare to intercept any dangerous debris that might fall on its territory if the missile launch goes wrong.

North Korea has said any attempt to shoot down the rocket itself would be an act of war.

“We have to calmly assess the situation, to take a clear-eyed view of it, without much agitation,” Borodavkin said.

“And all the issues which ... emerge because of this launch must be resolved through dialogue and consultations with all the parties involved,” he said.

“We have expressed this position to them and to our other partners, and we continue to adhere to this point of view,” he said.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s nuclear envoy headed to Washington yesterday for talks with US officials as regional powers scrambled to coordinate a joint strategy for North Korea’s planned rocket launch.

The US, South Korea, Japan and other nations have denounced the launch as a provocative move banned under a 2006 UN Security Council resolution prohibiting ballistic activity, and have warned that it would invite international sanctions.

With the rocket now on the launchpad in Musudan-ni in the northeast, North Korea is technically prepared to launch it as early today, South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper said, citing an unnamed diplomatic official.

In Tokyo, Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada ordered the military to prepare to shoot down any debris that could fall on Japanese territory if the rocket launch fails. He called on troops to mobilize interceptor missiles and has sent two warships to the Sea of Japan.

South Korea also is dispatching an Aegis-equipped Sejong the Great destroyer off the east coast to monitor the launch, a military official in Seoul said.

He asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The 7,600-tonne destroyer can detect and track targets hundreds of kilometers away, the military says.

Two US Aegis-equipped ships are also docked at South Korea’s southern Busan port and will set sail in coming days, US military spokesman Kim Yong-kyu said.

In Washington, envoy Wi Sung-lac plans to meet US President Barack Obama’s envoys on North Korea, Stephen Bosworth and Sung Kim as well as with Japan’s nuclear envoy, Akitaka Saiki, who will also be in Washington, South Korea’s foreign ministry said.

“As North Korea’s rocket launch preparations gather pace, I will have consultations on the issue and the six-way talks” on dismantling the North’s nuclear program, Wi told reporters before his departure.

Wi also met with Chinese officials earlier in the week in Beijing, saying the allies agreed they need a coordinated plan of action.

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