Tensions over North Korea's missile program escalated sharply Monday as Japan, Australia and New Zealand joined Washington in warning the communist state not to test an intercontinental ballistic missile that experts say could reach parts of the United States.
The 35-meter, or 115-foot, Taepodong- 2 missile stands ready to take off from Musudan-Ri, a remote village on the northeast coast of North Korea, after engineers completed loading liquid fuel into its rocket boosters, said The New York Times and other media in dispatches from Washington and Seoul.
A success would provide the strongest indication yet that North Korea was developing the capacity to deliver chemical, biological or perhaps nuclear warheads to targets as far away as the continental United States.
Such a development would drastically increase international concerns over the regime's arsenal and its potential for working with terrorist groups.
"Even now, we hope that they will not do this," Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan said Monday. "But if they ignore our views and launch a missile, then the Japanese government, consulting with the United States, would have to respond harshly."
J. Thomas Schieffer, the U.S. ambassador to Japan, said in Tokyo that Washington would seek action by the UN Security Council if there was a missile test.
"I think sanctions would have to be considered, but I wouldn't want to describe what actions we might take," Schieffer said. "I think we would regard it as a very, very serious matter, worthy of discussion and worthy of action by the Security Council."
Australia, one of the few Western counties with diplomatic relations with North Korea, said it had summoned the North Korean ambassador in Canberra and warned against a test.
"North Korea would be gravely mistaken if it thinks that a missile test would improve its bargaining position in the six-party talks," Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said. New Zealand's new envoy to North Korea will state her country's opposition to a test when she presents her credentials later this week in Pyongyang, said Foreign Minister Winston Peters.
In Seoul, South Korea's governing Uri Party urged North Korea to "not put its friend in danger" by testing a missile. The missile test could also thwart a planned trip by the former president, Kim Dae Jung, who wants to meet the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il, in Pyongyang this summer. In the past week, Washington and Tokyo have repeatedly urged Pyongyang to act rationally. But China and South Korea have so far appeared to employ quiet diplomacy.
"Under the current circumstances, it is hard to predict whether NorthKorea will fire the missile or not," said a ruling party spokesman.
Spokesman Woo Sang-Ho said senior government officials for security andforeign affairs had briefed leaders of the ruling party and weresceptical about media reports of an imminent launch.
"We are also concerned that groundless (media) speculation may causeanxieties that are out of proportion to reality," he said. "We hope themedia will avoid such overblown reports."
"But South Korea remains deeply concerned about preparations for any launch, which has triggered jitters in Asia and drawn sharp warnings from Washington and Tokyo.
Are they contradicting or is it just my Spanish brain the one who sees the contradiction? So they say there is no reason to suspect there is going to be a launch yet they are worried that a launch could actually happen. Then why they are NOW worried about A launch?
And why on earth the MSM cannot report on what it's happening? So they are worried about A POSSIBLE launch and the MSM cannot report over it? I am amazed…
UPDATE: Captain's Quarters (go and read it, very important as ever) reports the US has activated its missile defense systems while trying "to keep our moves from being unnecessarily provocative". He gives a descryption of the missile we are talking about:
The Taepodong-2 missile has Alaska in easy reach for a direct targeting profile. Depending on the configuration used, however, the Taepodong-2 can hit targets in the continental US using a ballistic polar route for its flight. The pending launch has the US and Japan on high alert. Without a doubt, if the rocket fires, the US will have no choice but to respond in some forceful manner — and if we're lucky, it will only be a successful demonstration of the missile defense system.
And also in US missile system, which "remains a work in progress". He also adds that America should prepare for war with North Korea.
Everything depends on the side China takes. But I doubt China wants a war so near its frontier and with so little to gain. I really think North Korea is nothing more than a puppet from China. And China will use it. Especially now that looks like the needs for only are going to rise by 50% by 2030, especially from India and China. I think he is going to manouvre it to gain more energy supplies, just as has done with Sudan.
UPDATE 2: Public Secrets has an hilarious post about the present situation:
I guess Kim Jong Il, the
lunatic dictatorDear Leader of North Korea, must be feeling lonely these days, with all the world paying attention to Iraq, Iran, and al Qaeda plots to use poison gas in the New York City subways. Just like he's done before when he feels the world isn't taking him seriously, he rattles his sabers and causes some mini-crisis to get attention. This time, he may get his fingers burned.
😉 Even if the problem is not to laugh (the situation in N.Korea is horrible for the people), we can laugh about Kim Il Jon.