New North Korean ruler Kim Jong-un 311 R.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
PYONGYANG - North Korea said on Tuesday it is ready to launch its controversial long-range rocket on schedule, prompting warnings it could sharply ratchet up tensions on the Korean peninsula.
Russia criticized North Korea over its launch plans, saying the decision showed disregard for UN Security Council resolutions restricting such actions and calling for a diplomatic solution to the dispute.
"We consider Pyongyang's decision to conduct a launch of a satellite an example of disregard for UN Security Council decisions," state-run news agency RIA quoted Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich as saying.
China reiterated its calls for calm and restraint.
The launch of the Unha-3 rocket, which North Korea says will merely put a weather satellite into orbit, breaches UN sanctions imposed to prevent Pyongyang from developing a missile that could carry a nuclear warhead.
"...We've already announced that the launch will happen between the 12th and 16th of April and we have already informed international organizations and we will follow the timed schedule," said Ryu Kum-chol, vice director of the space development department of the Korean Central Space Committee.
The launch is due to coincide with the 100th anniversary celebrations of the country's founder, Kim Il-sung. North Korea says that it is its sovereign right to launch the rocket, which it says is for peaceful purposes.
South Korea, which remains technically at war with the North, warned that the impoverished country of 23 million people would deepen its isolation if it went ahead.
The prospect of a North Korean rocket launch has alarmed Japan, which was overflown by an earlier rocket and said it would shoot it down if it crossed its airspace.
Airlines have re-routed flights to avoid the missile's path.