Saturday, March 28, 2009

North Korean Satellite Launch May Violate U.N. Rule, Mullen Says

By John J. Kruzel, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON - The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Friday expressed concern over a possible North Korean satellite launch that could violate United Nations sanctions against nuclear testing by the government in Pyongyang.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said North Korea has threatened a launch as soon as next week, and added that U.S. ships today moved from Japanese ports toward the Korean peninsula.

North Korea reportedly has placed a Taepodong 2 missile at a launch facility in preparation for a launch. Pyongyang has stated the long-range missile is equipped with a commercial satellite and poses no danger, according to reports.

But Mullen said the launch would contravene U.N. Resolution 1718, a unanimous decision the U.N. Security Council reached in 2006 to block attempts by North Korea to employ such technology.

He added that it's unlikely the missile in question could reach U.S. territory, but it "works towards technology to do that," the admiral said.

Appearing on CNN today, Mullen showed imagery that he said depicts a North Korean missile with stacked boosters on a launch pad. He added that North Korean leader Kim Jong II has stated he is readying for a launch between April 4 and 8.

"There's an expectation that even though the North Koreans say this is a satellite launch, what is of most concern to us is we believe it violates [Resolution 1718]," Mullen said. "[It] says very clearly that the technology supporting the development of ballistic missiles is against that resolution no matter what they're packaging."

Mullen said the engineering, guidance and engines involved in the primed missile are identical to the kind of capabilities required in manufacturing a ballistic missile.

"Potentially, with where this could go long-term, [Jong] can develop a system that could actually target us," Mullen said, adding that any upcoming launch could be "very disturbing to the region."