S. Korea vows to deal sternly with N. Korea’s planned rocket launch
SEOUL, March 21 (Yonhap) — South Korea will deal sternly with North Korea’s planned rocket launch but will keep its door open to talks with the communist country, Seoul’s point man on Pyongyang said Wednesday.
The North announced last week it would launch a rocket in mid-April to put a satellite into orbit, in what it said was part of its peaceful space program. The launch is timed to mark the centennial of the birth of the country’s late founder Kim Il-sung, the grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-un.
South Korea “will deal sternly with” North Korea’s planned rocket launch through close coordination with the international community, Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik said in a forum, according to his office.
He did not elaborate on whether South Korea would take the issue to the United Nations Security Council if the North goes ahead with the launch.
The North is already banned from all activities related to its ballistic missile program or any nuclear activity under U.N. Security Council resolutions.
The North’s surprise announcement came mere weeks after cautious optimism generated by its recent nuclear deal with the United States.
Under the agreement, announced late last month, Pyongyang agreed to temporarily put a moratorium on missile and nuclear tests and freeze its uranium-enrichment facilities in exchange for 240,000 tons of food aid from the U.S.
The U.S. has warned a North Korean missile launch would be “highly provocative” and a deal-breaker.
Yu expressed deep regret at the North’s proposed move, but said he has not given up hope for improved relations with North Korea.
“We will keep our door open to dialogue” with North Korea, he said, adding “I hope the North will respond to our sincere efforts.” Yu said South Korea is the only country that can help revive the North’s faltering economy.
South Korea has in recent months repeatedly called for talks with North Korea to try to ease tensions on the divided peninsula, but the North has yet to reply to the offers.
The two Koreas traded military threats against each other in recent weeks over what Pyongyang claimed was Seoul’s defamation of the dignity of the North’s new leader and his late father, Kim Jong-il.
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