North Korea said Tuesday that it would press ahead with its plan to launch a satellite into orbit next month, rebuffing President Obama and other world leaders who had told the country to cancel the launching or face the loss of food aid and additional sanctions.
North Korea said Tuesday that it would press ahead with its plan to launch a satellite into orbit next month, rebuffing President Barack Obama and other world leaders who had told the country to cancel the launching or face the loss of food aid and additional sanctions.
The North's announcement came shortly after Mr. Obama and other leaders attending the nuclear security summit meeting in Seoul condemned the North's planned launching not only as a provocation and violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution but also as a waste of millions of dollars that could be used to buy food for the North's hungry people.
On Tuesday, North Korea accused the United States of being confrontational and applying "double standards."
"We will never give up the launch of a satellite for peaceful purposes," a spokesman for the North Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency.
The spokesman advised the Obama administration to "drop the confrontation conception" and "make a bold decision to acknowledge that we also have a right to launch satellites."
Whether Mr. Obama was sincere when he said Monday that the United States had no hostile intent against the North would depend on "whether it applies double standards regarding our satellite launch," the spokesman said.
Washington and its allies believe that by launching rockets -- regardless of their payload -- North Korea has been developing intercontinental ballistic missile technology and the know-how to equip them with nuclear warheads. After the North's last satellite launching, in 2009, the U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution demanding that the North refrain from "any launch using ballistic missile technology."
Washington was particularly stunned and offended because the North's satellite launch plan was announced barely two weeks after Pyongyang agreed on Feb. 29 that it would place a moratorium on long-range missile tests in return for 240,000 tons of U.S. food aid.
With its rocket plans, North Korea also unleashed an international uproar that threatened to upstage the nuclear security summit meeting over which South Korea was presiding, with nearly 60 world leaders gathered in Seoul to discuss preventing nuclear terrorism. Japan and South Korea warned they might shoot down parts of the North Korean rocket if it violated their airspace. On Tuesday, the Japanese defense minister ordered interceptor missile units to prepare for the North Korean launching.
Washington insists that during the negotiations for the February deal, its officials clearly warned the North against a satellite launching, calling it a deal-breaker. The North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said Tuesday that during those talks, its officials "consistently maintained that a moratorium on long-range missile launches does not include satellite launches for peaceful purposes." How the two sides could have reached a deal despite such a disagreement remains unclear.
Some analysts said the North Korean diplomats who negotiated the February deal might have been upended by hard-liners in Pyongyang who insisted on launching a satellite to celebrate the 100th birthday of the North's founder, Kim Il-sung, on April 15.
"The problem may well be the recklessness of hard-liners who apparently are calling the shots in policy-making in North Korea now," said Chang Yong-seok, a senior researcher at the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University. "It seriously damages the standing of negotiators on both sides."
Pyongyang's apparent lack of policy coordination raised questions about the control by the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, over policy and "diplomatic maturity," said Cheong Seong-chang, an analyst at Sejong Institute. (On Sunday, Mr. Obama said, "It's not clear exactly who's calling the shots" in Pyongyang.)
Still, North Korea on Tuesday challenged U.S. negotiators to read the text of the February agreement. It called for a North Korean moratorium on "long-range missiles, not long-range missiles including satellite launches or launches using ballistic missile technology," the spokesman said. North Korea invited observers from NASA, the U.S. space agency, the spokesman said, so they could see the "peaceful nature of our satellite launch with their own eyes."
U.S. officials accused North Korea of reneging on a deal struck in "good faith." But longtime North Korea analysts also note that it is one of the North's time-honored negotiating tactics to abuse loopholes in the language of an agreement to strengthen its leverage or even kill the deal.
North Korea said on Tuesday that the satellite launching was a "dying wish of Gen. Kim Jong-il," the longtime North Korean leader who died in December, leaving his son Kim Jong-un in charge.
A key feature of the North Korean regime's campaign to legitimize the dynastic succession and protect the vested interests of the ruling elite has been to highlight the key legacies of Kim Jong-il: the country's nuclear weapons and long-range missile programs. The regime has blamed the North's food shortages on U.S. sanctions and exhorted its people to be proud of being "independent" with nuclear weapons.
When Mr. Obama stood near the border between North and South Korea on Sunday and criticized the North for keeping its people in poverty while spending millions developing nuclear weapons, he challenged this basic tenet of North Korean propaganda.
The North's state-run Web site Uriminjokkiri has heaped scorn on Mr. Obama in the past two days, accusing him of "provoking" and "maliciously slandering" the North Korean people. It advised Mr. Obama to "wash his own snotty nose first," the Korean equivalent of "mind your own business."
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