Negotiating With Pyongyang a ‘Fool’s Errand,’ Republican Says After Abortive Rocket Launch

By Patrick Goodenough | April 12, 2012 | 10:38pm EDT

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder, File)

( – North Korea’s launch of a multi-stage rocket Friday was evidently a dismal failure, according to Japanese officials who said the projectile crashed into the sea just over a minute into its flight.

“It appears that the object fell into the sea after flying for more than one minute,” Japanese Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka told a press briefing in Tokyo.

South Korea’s defense ministry said the rocket – which Pyongyang claimed was designed to put a satellite into orbit – flew for about 70 miles before disintegrating, with parts falling into the Yellow Sea, the body of water between the Korean peninsula and China.

By comparison, the carrier rocket used in North Korea’s previous attempted satellite launch, three years ago, flew around 2,000 miles before crashing into the Pacific, a flight lasting about 18 minutes, Japanese officials reported at the time.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement the launch “reminds us that the regime has no interest in behaving as a responsible actor” and “illustrates once again that trying to negotiate with the regime is a fool’s errand.”

“Rather than working towards the next doomed agreement with North Korea, or other rogue regimes, the United States must impose stronger penalties and pressure on those who threaten global security with their illegal nuclear, missile, and other unconventional weapons programs,” she said.

Both the 2009 attempt and Friday’s one involved the use of what the regime calls a “Unha” rocket. Western security officials say it closely mirrors North Korea’s long-range Taepodong-2 ballistic missile.

A 2009 U.N. Security Council resolution prohibits North Korea from conducting “any launch using ballistic missile technology,” and Pyongyang’s decision to go ahead was in defiance of numerous appeals from governments around the world.

Just hours earlier, G8 foreign ministers meeting in Washington said in a statement that they “demand that the DPRK not conduct the launch.”

They also urged North Korea “to abandon all of its nuclear weapons and existing nuclear and ballistic missile programs in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner.”

Following the launch, the G8 ministers issued a brief statement condemning it.

“Sharing the view that the launch undermines regional peace and stability, we call on the DPRK to abstain from further launches using ballistic missile technology or other actions which aggravate the situation on the Korean Peninsula,” it said.

“We are ready to consider, with others, taking measures responding to all activities of the DPRK that violate U.N. Security Council Resolutions, and calling for appropriate response by the United Nations Security Council.”

DPRK stands for Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the country’s official name.

A South Korean soldier in Seoul watches a TV news report about North Korea’s long-range rocket on Friday, April 13, 2012. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

The White House also condemned the launch.

“North Korea is only further isolating itself by engaging in provocative acts, and is wasting its money on weapons and propaganda displays while the North Korean people go hungry,” press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.

“The President has been clear that he is prepared to engage constructively with North Korea.  However, he has also insisted that North Korea live up to its own commitments, adhere to its international obligations and deal peacefully with its neighbors.”

Friday’s action violates not only Security Council resolutions but also a bilateral agreement with Washington reached just six weeks ago. In that agreement, North Korea pledged to honor a moratorium on “long-range missile launches” and nuclear tests, and to suspend uranium enrichment and admit U.N. weapons inspectors in exchange for 240,000 metric tons of U.S. food aid.

Shortly before the launch Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday that if it went ahead the deal would be off.

“It is regrettable because, as you know, we had worked through an agreement that would have benefited the North Korean people with the provision of food aid,” she said after the G8 ministers’ meeting. “ But in the current atmosphere, we would not be able to go forward with that, and other actions that other countries had been considering would also be on hold.”

Pyongyang said the launch was timed to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, the founder of the North Korean state and grandfather of the current leader, Kim Jong-un.

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