North Korea warned of “strong steps” if the UN censures its rocket launch, which Japan said yesterday showed some technological improvements on previous attempts.
The US and its allies are pushing for a strong Security Council response to what they say was a provocative long-range missile test defying past resolutions, but face opposition from China, Russia and others.
Hours after Pyongyang released footage of what it said was part of a peaceful space program, its deputy UN ambassador, Pak Tok-hun, said that if the council “takes any kind of steps whatever, we will consider this infringes upon the sovereignty of our country.”
Pak told reporters in New York that the North would take “necessary and strong steps” following any censure motion.
“Every country has the inalienable right to use outer space peacefully,” he said, pointing out that many countries had launched satellites several hundred times.
The three-stage Taepodong-2 rocket, launched on Sunday, carried a satellite, and not a missile, he said.
“This is a satellite. Everyone can distinguish [between] a satellite and a missile,” he said.
The North has previously said it would walk out of long-running six-nation nuclear disarmament talks in response to any action by the UN.
China, its sole major ally, said Pyongyang had a right to the peaceful use of space and called for a calm response “so as to jointly safeguard the peace and stability of the region and promote the six-party talks.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said world powers should “avoid any hasty conclusions” over the exercise.
With the world body divided, the US has hinted it may not insist on a binding resolution.
Late on Tuesday the impoverished North released film footage of what it termed an “historic” achievement — despite an estimate by one Seoul analyst that the satellite program came with a US$500 million price tag.
The footage suggests the North has made technological advances, Japan’s top government spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura, said yesterday.
“It was launched in a more advanced way than in previous cases,” Kawamura told reporters, noting also it was much larger than those previously fired.
Analysts say North Korea timed blast-off for maximum propaganda value ahead of today’s first meeting of its new parliament, which will re-elect leader Kim Jong-il to his most important post.
Kim was “choked with sobs” that the money spent on the launch could not be used for the people’s basic needs but said the people would understand, the communist party newspaper Rodong Sinmun reported on Tuesday.
Widespread reports that Kim, who is now 67, suffered a stroke last August have created lingering uncertainties about the succession.
On Tuesday state television broadcast the first video footage of Kim since last summer, which it said was taken in November and December, although South Korea’s Yonhap news agency noted that he was not walking briskly.
While the North insists its satellite was placed into orbit and is beaming back patriotic songs, South Korea, Japan and the US military say there is no sign of the object in space.
Foreign experts said the rocket’s second and third stage failed to separate and it fell in the Pacific short of the designated landing zone.
Still, South Korean media and analysts said that despite the partial failure, the Taepodong-2 missile traveled some 3,200km — twice the range North Korea achieved with a Taepodong-1 in 1998.