BEIJING: China yesterday said it was concerned at North Korea’s plans to launch a rocket later this month, state media reported, in a move strongly condemned by the United States and South Korea.
China, North Korea’s sole major ally and its biggest trade partner and aid provider, is seen as one of the few nations with any influence over the regime.
“China ... expressed its concern about the satellite launch plan of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, saying it hopes relevant parties can act in a way that is more conducive to the stability of the Korean peninsula,” Xinhua news agency said.
“North Korea has the right to the peaceful use of outer space, but this right is limited by the relevant Security Council resolutions,” the agency quoted foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang as saying.
The report came a day after North Korea announced that its second long-range rocket launch this year will take place between Dec. 10 and 22.
The United States and its key Asian military allies South Korea and Japan have condemned the planned launch as a disguised ballistic missile test that violates UN resolutions triggered by Pyongyang’s two nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.
As in April, North Korea said the launch would be a purely “peaceful, scientific” mission aimed at placing a polar-orbiting earth observation satellite into orbit.
Pyongyang has increased its reliance on China in recent years as sanctions over its missile and nuclear programs strangled its ability to secure international credit and foreign trade.
China joined the other members of the United Nation’s 15-strong Security Council to “strongly condemn,” North Korea’s April launch attempt.
The Council warned Pyongyang this week that going ahead with the December launch, widely seen as aimed at stirring patriotism and support for the country’s young, inexperienced ruler Kim Jong-Un, would be “extremely inadvisable.”
A report by South Korea’s Yonhap News agency Sunday said that North Korea has notified neighbors including Japan of the trajectory of the rocket.
“The North has notified aviation authorities in nations including Japan that could come under potential danger ... of the timing and expected path (of the rocket),” the agency quoted an unnamed senior Seoul official as saying.
Tokyo reportedly postponed talks due next week with North Korea and ordered its military to prepare to shoot down the rocket if it goes over Japan.
The launch, and in particular a successful launch, would likely draw sanctions, either from individual countries or concerned nations acting as a bloc, a move analysts say could trigger Pyongyang to step-up its nuclear program.
A Chinese court has asked for an apology from a newspaper which said it jailed 10 “interceptors” who illegally held petitioners attempting to lodge complaints with the government, state media reported yesterday.
The state-run Beijing Youth Daily reported Sunday that 10 were imprisoned for illegally detaining people from the central province of Henan who had traveled to Beijing to complain about local government abuses.
The widely-circulated report struck a chord among many Chinese dissatisfied with the age-old “petitioning” system, which allows citizens to request the central government to investigate disputes such as land grabs and unpaid wages.
Officials, eager to protect their reputations, often employ “interceptors” to catch petitioners and detain them in secret facilities known as “black jails” to prevent them from lodging complaints.
The newspaper said a Beijing court handed down sentences ranging from several months to a year-and-a-half in prison for “illegal imprisonment,” the first time such workers have been sentenced in the capital.
But a court spokeswoman branded the report, which was carried by most major Chinese news websites and widely spread on Chinese social networking websites, as “fake news,” another state-run newspaper, the China Daily, reported.
The spokeswoman, who was not named, “confirmed a case involving city officials from Henan had been heard,” but “denied judges had handed down any verdict,” the paper said.