North Korea plans to launch long-range rocket

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The launch also jeopardizes the recent food aid deal with the U.S., he said.

“I can’t see how the U.S. is going to deliver this food aid,” he said. “I think this is going to kill it.”

North Korea agreed last month to suspend uranium enrichment, place a moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests, and to allow back U.N. weapons inspectors in exchange for much-needed food aid. Uranium enrichment is one way to make atomic bombs. In the past North Korea has also weaponized plutonium for nuclear devices.

North Korea called the April 2009 launch a bid to send a communications satellite into space, but it was widely viewed in the West as a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions prohibiting North Korea from engaging in nuclear and ballistic missile activity.

Shortly after the 2009 launch from an east coast station, Pyongyang declared that it would abandon six-nation negotiations on offering the North aid and concessions in exchange for nuclear disarmament. And weeks later, North Korea tested a nuclear device, the second in three years — earning the regime tightened U.N. sanctions.

Japan’s Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said going ahead with the launch would harm peace and stability in the region. Japan has set up a crisis management task force to monitor the situation and is cooperating with the U.S. and South Korea.

North Korea is proud of its nuclear and missile programs, which it claims are necessary to protect itself against the United States, which stations more than 28,000 troops in South Korea and has more troops as well as nuclear-powered warships in the region.

“This is an event that shows how strong our self-reliant economy is,” Pyongyang resident Song Jong Chol told AP. “This is the happiest of happy occasions.”

North Korea and the United States fought on opposite sides of the three-year Korean War, which ended in a truce in 1953. They have never signed a peace treaty.

North Korea is believed to have enough weaponized plutonium for four to eight “primitive” atomic bombs, according to scientist Siegfried Hecker of the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University. Pyongyang also announced in 2009 that it would begin enriching uranium, and revealed the facility to Hecker in November 2010.

Scientists believe North Korea is working toward building a device small enough to mount on a rocket capable of reaching the United States. The same rocket used for a satellite could be used for a long-range missile.

The North Korean space committee spokesman said a Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite designed to orbit the earth will be mounted on an Unha-3 rocket from the Sohae station in Cholsan County. He called it a “working” satellite that was an improvement over two previous “experimental” satellites.

The spokesman said North Korea would abide by international regulations governing the launch of satellites for “peaceful” scientific purposes and that an orbit was chosen to avoid showering debris on neighboring nations.

North Korea provided similar notice in 2009, but launched the rocket over Japan despite warnings from world leaders that it would set the nation on a path of isolation.

In 2009, North Korea said an experimental communications satellite mounted on a rocket was sent into space playing “Song of Gen. Kim Il Sung” and “Song of Gen. Kim Jong Il.”

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