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After Rocket Launch, South Korea Fires Warning Shots At North's Navy

  • RFE/RL

A day after Pyongyang's controversial rocket launch, South Korea fired warnings shots at a patrol boat from North Korea's navy that briefly crossed into South Korean territorial waters.

The incursion early on February 8 came amid heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula following North Korea's launch of a long-range rocket that carried a satellite into space and raised concerns about Pyongyang's nuclear program.

South Korea, Japan, and the United States consider the launch to be a missile test in disguise that violates several UN Security Council resolutions.

On February 7, the UN Security Council met in an emergency session and strongly condemned the rocket launch, saying it would adopt a resolution with "significant" new sanctions.

The statement was backed by China, Pyongyang's ally, and the 14 other Security Council members.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said a new UN resolution targeting North Korea must be adopted quickly and include "unprecedented measures" that Pyongyang doesn't expect.

Japanese envoy Motohide Yoshikawa also called for heavier sanctions, saying "the existing sanctions have not stopped North Korea from developing nuclear weapons."

But China's UN Ambassador Liu Jieyi said the resolution should "do the work of reducing tension…and of encouraging a negotiated solution."

North Korea’s state television claimed a North Korean satellite called Kwangmyongson-4 is now orbiting the Earth every 94 minutes and that the North would continue to launch satellites in the future.

But critics said the launch was a cover for testing a ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead -- a test that is banned by multiple Security Council resolutions.

It followed North Korea’s claim in January that it tested a hydrogen bomb.

Condemnation after the February 7 launch was swift, with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calling it "deeply deplorable" and saying the rocket used ballistic-missile technology. Ban also said North Korea must stop "provocative actions."

Russia said Pyongyang "once again demonstrated a flagrant disregard of the norms of international law."

China's Foreign Ministry said it "expresses regret" about North Korea's "insistence on implementing a launch of missile technology in the face of international opposition."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry responded to news of the launch by reaffirming Washington’s defense commitment to Japan and South Korea.

Kerry said the United States will work with the UN Security Council on "significant measures" to hold Pyongyang accountable for violating UN resolutions.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Strategic Command said that its systems had detected and tracked what it believed to be a North Korean missile launch into space.

In a statement, the U.S. Strategic Command said defense officials tracked the launch in a southern trajectory from North Korea over the Yellow Sea.

It said the North American Aerospace Defense Command, NORAD, "determined that at no time was the missile a threat to North America."

Also on February 7, a senior South Korean Defense Ministry official announced that Seoul and Washington had agreed to begin talks on the possible deployment of an advanced missile-defense system in South Korea.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa, BBC, CNN, NHK, Yonhap, and Interfax