“If Japan recklessly ‘intercepts’ the DPRK’s (North’s) satellite for peaceful purposes, the KPA will mercilessly deal deadly blows not only at the already deployed intercepting means but at major targets,” said a statement from the Korean People’s Army (KPA).
The planned launch by North Korea of a communications satellite is being viewed by South Korea, Japan and the United States as a test of the Taepodong-2 ballistic missile. That missile in theory could reach Alaska or Hawaii.
The communications satellite has begun to be fueled.
According to the United States and its regional partners the launch would violate a United Nations prohibition on North Korean ballistic missile tests. This was passed after North Korea tested a nuclear weapon.
By packaging the planned satellite launch as a space research mission North Korea has been able to underplay the risk to the U.N. Security Council.
VOA News English reports:
“They know, in the end, there’s no appetite for meaningful sanctions on the part of the Chinese and the Russians. Without the Chinese and the Russians, any calls by Japan, South Korea, or the U.S. aren’t going to go very far,” said Mike Chinoy, a senior fellow at the Pacific Council on International Relations.
“If the United States, after this launch, decides to move back toward negotiation – which I think is a sensible and logical thing to do – the optics are going to look very much like the North coerced Washington into coming back to the table, after its display of muscle flexing,” said Chinoy.
Both Japan and the United States have deployed Aegis destroyers to monitor the expected North Korean launch. Japan has also deployed Patriot guided-missile units on land to bring down the rocket if it should look to be falling towards the Japanese territory.
“An interception would be made only if the flying object directly threatens the lives and assets of Japanese people,” a defence ministry spokeswoman told AFP.
President Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak have been discussing the issue in London where they are attending the G20 Summit.
“They agreed on the need for a stern, united response from the international community if North Korea launches a long-range rocket, and to work together in the course of that,” the South Korean presidential office said in a statement.
While there is no official word from the White House reporters were told by Obama that South Korea is one of “America’s closest allies and greatest friends”.