China on Monday expressed “concern” over North Korea’s plan to launch its second rocket this year, saying the action could violate restrictions based on U.N. Security Council requirements.
North Korea announced Saturday that it would launch a space satellite, reportedly informing neighboring countries it would follow a flight path similar to a failed attempt in April.
On Monday, Pyongyang notified the International Maritime Organization of the launch, which it said was scheduled for some time between Dec. 10-22. The rocket is expected to take flight from the Sohae Satellite Launch Station, where North Korea launched its unsuccessful attempt in April.
The rocket's first stage drop-off would take place off the west coast of the Korean Peninsula, while the second stage would occur off the Philippines, according to coordinates provided by Pyongyang.
North Korea’s biggest ally, China, urged calm on the Korean peninsula and said it was “concerned” by Pyongyang’s plan to launch the rocket.
“China thinks to maintain the peace and stability on the Korea Peninsula and Northeast area is good to all sides and also the common responsibility to all sides,” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Hong Lei said at a briefing Monday.
“Under the current circumstance, we hope relevant sides will stay calm and restrained and won’t escalate tension. China will stay in contact with all sides,” Hong said.
“We are concerned about them launching the satellite. They have the right to peacefully use outer space. But the right is limited by U.N. resolutions.”
North Korean ally Russia took a stronger stance against the launch.
We urgently appeal to the government [of North Korea] to reconsider the decision to launch a rocket," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement, Reuters news agency reported.
Russia said North Korea had been warned not to ignore a U.N. Security Council resolution which "unambiguously prohibits [it] from launching rockets using ballistic technology."
On Saturday, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland condemned the plan to launch a rocket, saying the move would be “a highly provocative act that threatens peace and security in the region” and would be in “direct violation” of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Japan postponed two days of talks with North Korea that had been scheduled to begin in Beijing Wednesday because of the launch announcement and the country’s defense minister on Saturday ordered the military to make the necessary defensive preparations for a missile should it go off course and threaten Japanese territory.
Pyongyang’s rocket launch plan was unveiled ahead of South Korea’s Dec. 19 presidential election. The North has frequently used propaganda and armed attacks in an attempt to influence events in South Korea.
North Korea maintains that its rocket launches are part of a “peaceful” space program, but many countries seeking to end Pyongyang’s buildup of arms believe they are part of an effort to build a missile arsenal capable of targeting the U.S.
North Korea is under U.N. sanctions which ban the nation from trading missiles or nuclear technology.
Both Russia and China are permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.
The two nations have called on the global community to refrain from action against the nuclear-armed North Korea, which they say can be counterproductive.
In addition to last April's rocket launch, which was reported to have exploded shortly after liftoff and to have broken up off of South Korea’s western coast, North Korea has fired long-range missiles in March 2009, July 2006 and August 1998.
Pyongyang has said it successfully put satellites into orbit, though international space and defense experts have never detected a North Korean satellite.
Reported by Joshua Lipes.