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China Daily Website

Launch of rocket is regretful, Beijing says

Updated: 2012-12-13 00:58
By Li Xiaokun in Beijing and Cai Hong in Tokyo ( China Daily)

Launch of rocket is regretful, Beijing says

Photo provided by the DPRK's official KCNA news agency on December 12, 2012 shows a rocket being launched from a launch pad at the West Sea Satellite Launch Site, at the DPRK's satellite control centre in Cholsan county, North Pyongan province. [Photo/Xinhua]

China's response echoed a similar reaction from Russia and followed strong condemnation from the US.

The Japanese government said on Wednesday the rocket passed over its southern island chain of Okinawa around 12 minutes after liftoff.

The timing of the launch seems to have caught some observers by surprise.

Japan expected that the launch would happen next week, after DPRK space officials said that scientists were considering "readjusting" the timing of the launch.

The DPRK had taken down part of the rocket on its launch pad to fix a technical problem.

"It is impossible for the rocket to lift off from the same launch pad in such a short period of time," Eya Osamu, a specialist on Korean affairs at the Organization for Asian Studies at Waseda University, said in a TV interview.

"The information collected by Japan, the US and ROK is questionable," Pyon Jin-il, editor-in-chief of Korea Report, said.

So far, no missile parts have been found in Japanese territory. Tokyo did not activate the Japan-US joint missile defense system, which is designed to intercept incoming missiles.

Jin Canrong, deputy dean at the School of International Studies at Renmin University of China in Beijing, said the launch's timing was significant.

The successful launch has also boosted Pyongyang in its rocket rivalry with Seoul, Jin said.

Late last month, the ROK suspended the launch of its space rocket carrying a satellite after an abnormality was detected in the second stage of the rocket.

The move is also aimed at exerting pressure on the ROK, which insists on setting preconditions for dialogue with the DPRK, and Washington, which has "neglected" Pyongyang under US President Barack Obama, Jin said.

Jin said Washington is likely to seriously push for further sanctions against Pyongyang.

Huang Youfu, a professor of Korean studies at the Minzu University of China, said "the timing also aims to exert pressure on Japan and the ROK" as both will hold elections in December.

"The incident will bring more instability to the region, giving the US and other nations another excuse to increase their military presence and hold military exercises," he said.

Masao Okonogi, a professor of Korean politics at Keio University, told AFP that the launch would thrust Pyongyang close to the top of Washington's national security agenda.

"Putting a satellite into orbit means that you have the technology to get a warhead to a targeted area. Now the DPRK is becoming not only a threat to neighboring countries, but also a real threat to the United States," Okonogi said.

"The question is whether the satellite was precisely put into the planned orbit or veered off."

US and ROK officials said it would take time to fully analyze the launch.

The UN Security Council was due to meet later on Wednesday to discuss its response to the launch, with the US and its allies demanding a significant expansion of sanctions.

Contact the writers at lixiaokun@chinadaily.com.cn and caihong@chinadaily.com.cn

Zhang Yunbi and Liu Yedan in Beijing and AFP contributed to this story.

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