South Korea Calls on North Korea to Cancel Rocket Launch

Michael Song, Feb. 3, 2016, 9:33 a.m.

South Korea urged North Korea on Wednesday to cancel its plans to launch a rocket, warning that Pyongyang will "pay a harsh price" if it goes ahead with the plan. North Korea informed the International Maritime Organization on Tuesday that it will launch a satellite between Feb. 8 and Feb. 25. "North Korea should withdraw its plan for a launch," said Cho Tae-yong, deputy chief of the presidential office of national security, noting that North Korea is banned from conducting ballistic missile tests under the U.N. resolutions.

"We sternly warn that North Korea will pay a harsh price" if it goes ahead with the rocket launch, he said, without elaborating on what he meant by a harsh price. North Korea has long been under an array of U.S. and U.N. sanctions for its missile and nuclear tests. He called the North's notification a "challenge" to the international community, citing the U.N. Security Council's ongoing discussions to punish North Korea for its fourth nuclear test last month.

Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn said North Korea's missile launch is unacceptable as it poses a threat to peace and stability in the region and the world. He also called on the military to retaliate against North Korea if Pyongyang stages a provocation against the South. He made the comments in a rare visit to a military unit near the heavily fortified border with North Korea.

The North's notification coincided with a surprise visit to Pyongyang by China's top nuclear envoy, Wu Dawei. Wu is in Pyongyang to discuss the current situation, China's Foreign Ministry said Tuesday in a brief statement to Yonhap News Agency, without elaborating. Wu is expected to try to dissuade North Korea from launching a long-range rocket while trying to bring the North back to the negotiating table on its nuclear weapons program.

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