SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - South Korea's president sought
Wednesday to galvanize support from world leaders to pursue U.N.
Security Council punishment for North Korea if it proceeds with a
rocket launch that is suspected to be a cover for a missile test.
In one-on-one meetings in London on the eve of the G-20 summit,
President Lee Myung-bak stressed the need for a "united response"
among world leaders after Pyongyang carries out what it has said
will be a satellite launch some time from Saturday to following
As world leaders prepared a response to the launch, CNN
television reported that the North's own preparations were
continuing. The network said on its Web site that Pyongyang has
begun fueling the rocket, citing an unidentified senior U.S.
military official. South Korea's Defense Ministry said it was aware
of the report but declined to comment.
The U.S., South Korea and Japan believe the reclusive country is
really testing its long-range missile technology, and they warn
Pyongyang would face sanctions under a U.N. Security Council
resolution that bans the country from any ballistic activity.
North Korea has refused to back down and issued warnings of its
own, telling the U.S. it will shoot down any spy planes that
intrude into its territory and threatening Japan that any effort to
intervene in the launch would be considered an act of war.
"If the brigandish U.S. imperialists dare to infiltrate spy
planes into our airspace to interfere with our peaceful satellite
launch preparations, our revolutionary armed forces will
mercilessly shoot them down," South Korea's Unification Ministry
quoted North Korean radio as saying.
It is unclear what capability the North Korea has to shoot down
high-flying Boeing RC-135s, which can reach altitudes of nearly 10
miles (15 kilometers).
U.S. military officials in Seoul declined to comment on the
spying allegations or the North's threat.
Lee and Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, meanwhile, reaffirmed
their intention to take North Korea to the Security Council after
"A launch by North Korea would be a clear violation of a U.N.
resolution," Aso told Lee on Wednesday, according to Osamu
Sakashita, Aso's deputy Cabinet secretary for public relations.
"On this issue, Japan, Korea and the United States need to work
closely together," Aso said.
Lee assured Aso that South Korea supports Tokyo's right to take
action to defend itself, Sakashita said. "He said Japan has every
right to take measures to protect its citizens. Korea recognizes
this," he said.
Japan has deployed battleships with antimissile systems off its
northern coast and stationed Patriot missile interceptors around
Tokyo to shoot down any wayward rocket debris that North Korea has
said might litter the area.
The North has warned it would consider any interception "the
start of Japan's war of re-invasion."
Japan says it is only protecting its territory and has no
intention of trying to shoot down the rocket itself.
In Washington, 16 Republican lawmakers urged President Barack
Obama to shoot down the rocket if it endangers the United States or
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in a TV interview aired
Sunday that the U.S. had no plans to intercept the North Korean
rocket but might consider it if an "aberrant missile" were headed
to Hawaii "or something like that."
Obama is expected to join the push for a joint response when he
meets with the South Korean leader Thursday. British Prime Minister
Gordon Brown and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd have already
sided with Lee, saying the North's launch would violate the U.N.
resolution. But it will be harder to convince President Hu Jintao
of China, the North's only major ally, on Friday.
Beijing and Moscow - veto-wielding permanent members of the
Security Council - could object to an attempt to seek U.N.
sanctions against Pyongyang, citing legal uncertainty over the
wording of the resolution because it makes "no mention of launches
relating to peaceful outer space activities," the Brussels-based
International Crisis Group said in a report.
"China and Russia might argue with at least equal
plausibility" that the resolution relates only to military missile
launches and programs, the group said.
U.S., South Korean and Japanese officials have stressed that
missile and satellite launches use the same technology and differ
only in payload, so a successful liftoff means the North has a way
to launch nuclear warheads.
North Korea's "weapons of mass destruction combined with its
ability to deliver something at a long range is a problem,
regardless of what is mounted at the top of the rocket," Wi
Sung-lac, Seoul's top nuclear envoy, said after returning from
talks in Washington with his U.S. and Japanese counterparts.
Amid the tensions over the rocket launch, North Korea has said
it will indict and try two American journalists - Laura Ling and
Euna Lee of former Vice President Al Gore's Current TV media
venture - for allegedly crossing the border illegally from China on
March 17 and engaging in "hostile acts."
In Seoul, meanwhile, North and South Korea faced off again in
another arena: the soccer pitch.
South Korea beat North Korea 1-0 in a World Cup qualifier
Wednesday that drew frenzied cheers from hometown fans waving the South Korean flag.
"I hope we (South and North Korea) can step closer toward peace
with this soccer game," said Kwon Jin-won, 21.
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