Launch by North Korea would vi­o­late U.S. pact

Op­por­tu­nity for Kim to build mil­i­tary le­git­i­macy

The Washington Times Daily - - World - BY KRISTINA WONG

Top U.S. de­fense of­fi­cials Wed­nes­day expressed pes­simism that North Korea would scrap its plans to launch a satel­lite next month us­ing a long-range mis­sile in vi­o­la­tion of in­ter­na­tional re­stric­tions.

The planned April 15 launch would vi­o­late the con­di­tions of a re­cently agreed-upon deal be­tween North Korean diplo­mats and U.S. of­fi­cials for the se­cre­tive, to­tal­i­tar­ian coun­try to re­ceive U.S. food aid.

Peter Lavoy, the De­fense Depart­ment’s se­nior pol­icy of­fi­cial on Asia and Pa­cific se­cu­rity af­fairs, said the launch is a “real pos­si­bil­ity.”

“Py­ongyang is will­ing to uti­lize mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­i­ties with deadly con­se­quences,” Mr. Lavoy said dur­ing a House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee hear­ing Wed­nes­day.

He added that the mis­sile launch pro­vides an op­por­tu­nity for North Korea’s new leader, Kim Jong-un, to es­tab­lish his le­git­i­macy as a mil­i­tary leader and to con­sol­i­date power.

Army Gen. James D. Thur­man, the top U.S mil­i­tary com­man­der on the Korean penin­sula, told the com­mit­tee that Py­ongyang has in­di­cated the launch would oc­cur in a “south­ward di­rec­tion,” and that sev­eral coun­tries could be af­fected by fall­ing de­bris, in­clud­ing South Korea, Ja­pan, the Philip­pines and In­done­sia.

Re­gional and mil­i­tary ex­perts in South Korea and the United States sus­pect the launch is a cover for a bal­lis­tics mis­sile test.

Wed­nes­day, a North Korean of­fi­cial said the satel­lite launch will al­low his coun­try to es­ti­mate crop pro­duc­tion and an­a­lyze nat­u­ral re­sources, the As­so­ci­ated Press re­ported.

An un­named North Korean space tech­nol­ogy of­fi­cial said that for­eign ex­perts and jour­nal­ists have been in­vited to the launch to show that the satel­lite has peace­ful and sci­en­tific pur­poses, the AP re­ported

He also told the of­fi­cial Korean Cen­tral News Agency that the satel­lite weighs 220 pounds and will or­bit at an al­ti­tude of 310 miles.

Py­ongyang claims it put a satel­lite in or­bit in 2009. Washington and Seoul say it did not.

North Korean of­fi­cials pre­vi­ously had said the launch would honor the 100th an­niver­sary of the birth of the coun­try’s founder, Kim Il-sung, who died in 1994. His son and suc­ces­sor, Kim Jong-il, died in De­cem­ber, and was suc­ceeded by his son, Kim Jong-un, in Jan­uary.

About two weeks be­fore North Korea first an­nounced plans for the launch, the U.S. had agreed to send the North food aid in ex­change for its com­mit­ment not to launch bal­lis­tic mis­siles, among other con­di­tions. The U.S. has sus­pended the deal.

“It’s re­gret­table that the food aid is not mov­ing for­ward,” Mr. Lavoy said, deny­ing that the aid is be­ing used as lever­age.

The U.S. usu­ally does not link hu­man­i­tar­ian aid with pol­icy mat­ters, but North Korea has “so brazenly vi­o­lated” the re­cent deal that U.S. of­fi­cials have no con­fi­dence that the coun­try would abide by the rest of the agree­ment, Mr. Lavoy said.

He said the U.S. is work­ing with its al­lies and other part­ners in the re­gion to try to dis­cour­age North Korea from launch­ing the mis­sile.

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