US issues warning to North Korea
The US State Department has said a potential North Korean satellite launch would violate international restrictions placed on the DPRK. The statement came after North Korean media revealed that Kim Jong-un had visited a facility where a spacecraft is being developed.
During a press briefing on Wednesday, US State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel said the launch would breach “multiple UN Security Council resolutions” on North Korea’s ballistic missile program, which also cover rockets used for spacecraft.
“We have been very clear that we urge the DPRK to refrain from further threatening activity and call on Pyongyang to engage in serious and sustained diplomacy,” Patel said. “In terms of actions, we of course continue to have a number of tools at our disposal to hold the DPRK accountable. You have seen us take those steps and we will continue to do so.”
The United States currently maintains a raft of sanctions on North Korea and has threatened new penalties in the past over weapons tests.
Pyongyang has insisted on its right to develop its military capabilities, arguing that its weapons – including its nuclear arsenal – are for defensive purposes, and has cited what it sees as an aggressive US military posture on its border.
On Tuesday, Kim met with scientists, technicians and senior officials as he inspected the country’s first military reconnaissance satellite. The North Korean leader approved an unspecified “future action plan” in preparation for the launch, according to the Korean Central News Agency.
While unveiling the craft last month, Kim claimed the project was the “most crucial primary task” for the DPRK’s armed forces, and said the satellite would be ready to go into orbit sometime in the coming weeks.
“The successful launch of a military reconnaissance satellite is an urgent request… and the government’s top policy priority to strengthen our national defense capabilities,” Kim said after the inspection, adding that North Korea would continue to advance its space program.
Tensions between Washington and Pyongyang have soared in recent months, with the DPRK carrying out a flurry of weapons tests in retaliation for several rounds of joint US-South Korean wargames. North Korea has repeatedly condemned such exercises as rehearsal for an invasion, though the United States insists the drills pose no threat to any country.