Wed, Apr 08, 2009 - Page 5 News List

China defends N Korea’s rocket launch

RIGHT TO SPACE: While US officials pressed the UN to censure Pyongyang following Sunday’s launch, a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman called for ‘cool-headed calm’

AFP , BEIJING AND ISTANBUL

China said yesterday that North Korea had the right to peaceful use of space and refused to condemn its ally’s weekend rocket launch.

In its clearest comments yet following North Korea’s launch, China’s foreign ministry said the UN should not over-react and that the most pressing concern was to restart stalled nuclear disarmament talks.

“We hope relevant parties can maintain restraint and stay calm to safeguard overall peace and stability,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu (姜瑜) told reporters.

“This issue also involves a country’s right to peaceful use of space. We believe the [UN] Security Council should respond in a prudent way,” Jiang said.

North Korea maintains that Sunday’s launch put an experimental communications satellite into orbit, but Washington and its allies say that the real purpose was to test a Taepodong-2 missile that could in theory reach Alaska.

The US and Japan are pushing for the Security Council to react strongly to the test, saying it violated UN resolutions, but China and Russia have been pushing for a more muted response.

When asked if China condemned the launch, Jiang declined to say anything critical of North Korea, instead commenting on the importance of the six-nation talks aimed at dismantling Pyongyang’s nuclear programs.

“We call on relevant parties to proceed from the standpoint of the overall interest to maintain a cool-headed calm so as to jointly safeguard the peace and stability of the region and promote the six-party talks,” she said.

However, senior US officials warned yesterday it was too early to write off efforts to censure North Korea at the UN over its rocket launch.

“I think it is too early to jump to any conclusions about what we will be able to accomplish,” said Denis McDonough, a senior foreign policy advisor to US President Barack Obama.

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