U.S., North Korea Headed for Clash Over Rocket Launch

Tuesday, April 3, 2012
By Paul Martin

April 2, 2012

Pyongyang and Washington appear headed for a high-stakes diplomatic clash as the North Korea prepares to launch a new rocket—and China stands in the middle.

North Korea appears in the midst of preparing a long-range rocket for launch in a few weeks, claiming it will put a civilian satellite into space. The United States and its allies in the region believe the launch is intended to test long-range ballistic missile technology, which would violate United Nations resolutions and a recent pact between the U.S. and North Korea.

A White House spokesman declined comment Monday on new alledged images of the launch site, which showed fuel tanks and other equipment.

In the meantime, U.S. efforts to convince new North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will place new stress on already tense relations between Washington and its top global peer and creditor, Beijing.

[See pictures of Obama visiting the Pacific Rim.]

“The U.S. will respond by trying to get more resolutions at the U.N., and by pushing the Chinese to punish the North Koreans,” says Victor Cha, who directed Asian affairs for the National Security Council under George W. Bush.

Two close U.S. allies in the region, South Korea and Japan, “are quite concerned” about the planned launched, Cha says. Neither nation believes it is solely for civilian purposes, he adds.

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