By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 5, 2009 – The UN’s top official denounced last evening’s missile launch by North Korea, according to a news release issued by the UN today.
“Given the volatility in the region, as well as a stalemate in interaction among the concerned parties, such a launch is not conducive to efforts to promote dialogue, regional peace or stability,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement released today.
The secretary general cited the North Korean missile launch as a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1718, which prohibits North Korea from making such launches or conducting nuclear-weapons research. Some observers believe that North Korea had already tested a nuclear-type weapon in 2006.
The UN is scheduled to meet in emergency session this afternoon to discuss the North Korea missile-launch issue.
In his statement issued today, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it is imperative to persuade North Korea to re-engage in the Six-Party discussions.
All countries involved in the negotiations, including North Korea, the UN Secretary-General stated, should “focus on ways to build confidence and restore dialogue, including the early resumption of the Six-Party Talks.”
Yesterday evening, the North Koreans launched a three-stage missile that failed to achieve orbit and fell into the Pacific Ocean without incident, according to the U.S. military.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama was in the Czech Republic when he was informed of the missile launch. Obama told an audience in Prague today that the North Korean missile launch was provocative and had violated UN international security rules.
“Once again, by testing a rocket that could be used for long-range missiles, this provocation underscores the need for action, not just this afternoon at the UN Security Council, but in our determination to prevent the spread of these weapons,” Obama said.
“Rules must be binding; violations must be punished; words must mean something,” Obama continued. ”The world must stand together to prevent the spread of these weapons. Now is the time for a strong international response.”
The North Korean Taepodong 2 missile had passed over Japan but jettisoned no debris there, according to a U.S. Northern Command news release issued today.
The missile’s flight path had presented no threat to North America or Hawaii, the Northcom release stated.
The missile’s first stage fell into the Sea of Japan; the rest of the stages and the payload, reportedly a communications satellite, landed in the Pacific Ocean, according to the Northcom release. The North Koreans say the rocket had successfully placed the satellite into orbit, according to news reports.
Any North Korean missile launch would have a negative impact on efforts to lessen tensions in the region, a U.S. State Department official told reporters in the days leading up to last night’s launch.
The North Koreans have insisted that their Taepodong 2 missile launch is for peaceful purposes. North Korea’s neighbors South Korea and Japan were alarmed at the possibility of another launch. The North Koreans conducted an unsuccessful missile launch in 2006 when their rocket briefly passed over Japanese territory.
Another North Korean missile launch “would be counterproductive” to soothing tensions in the region, U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Wood told reporters at an April 2 news conference in Washington, D.C.
International diplomats have employed negotiations, known as the Six-Party Talks, between the United States, South Korea, Japan, China, North Korea and Russia to persuade North Korea to jettison its nuclear weapons program. Arms control experts believe that a nuclear-armed North Korea would ratchet up tensions and prompt a nuclear-arms race across the region.