Noy to NoKor: Stop rocket launch

By Delon Porcalla – President Aquino yesterday joined world leaders in condemning North Korea’s planned rocket launch and called for collective efforts for peace in the region.

“The use of ballistic missile technology in any launch violates UN Security Council resolutions, and it presents risks to all concerned,” Aquino said at the inauguration of the PEFTOK-Korean War Memorial Hall at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig City.

In a speech to Filipino veterans of the Korean War, he called the rocket launch a “needless provocation” and urged North Korea to abandon it.

“It increases tensions, particularly in the period of uncertainty leading up to the launch – where no one is sure of the trajectory of the missile,” he said.

It was Aquino’s first categorical statement on the issue after the rocket launch was reported in international media, which also said that the missile trajectory may cross Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

“Similarly, debris from the launch may potentially land in our territory. This is a needless provocation not only on the Korean peninsula, but in our entire region,” Aquino stressed.

“It is with our respective peoples in mind that we urge the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea not to proceed with its planned launch,” he said.

Aquino recalled the tensions in the region in November 2010, when the Philippines joined other countries in urging North Korea to stop its aggression towards South Korea, where thousands, if not millions, may be put in danger.

“No one benefits from a return to those tension-filled days, and it is precisely out of our desire to promote the well-being of all our peoples – Korean and Filipino alike – that we express our grave concerns over the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s plans to launch what it claims as an earth observation satellite, but is widely believed to be a long range ballistic missile, between April 12 and 16,” Aquino said.

“We must work with each other in the spirit of cooperation and with the goal of mutual success. Stability, peace and prosperity in our region requires all of us to continue to engage with each other, and the larger international community, in ways that build confidence,” he added.

Aquino said North Korea should engage the international community and return to actions that promote confidence-building among its neighbors.

Assistant Secretary Teresita Barsana of the Department of Foreign Affairs told reporters in a briefing at Malacañang that Aquino is expected to raise the issues of North Korea’s rocket launch in next week’s 20th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and Related Summits in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

“I believe he (Aquino) will have an opportunity to do that (raise North Korea rocket issue) during the retreat, during the exchange of views on international and regional issues,” Barsana explained.

“The retreat (on April 4) is a meeting of all the leaders in a very informal environment. They can have a freewheeling discussion on issues of common interest and of the pressing issues of the day. So that is where the President can, raise the issue on North Korea,” she added.

Barsana said the President is also expected to raise the issues of the West Philippine Sea (WPS), or the South China Sea, when heads of state hold their retreat on April 4.

During the ASEAN leaders’ retreat, there will be an exchange of views on international and regional issues and on the implementation of the declaration on the Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, she said.

“He (Aquino) will probably bring it up during the ASEAN Summit retreat and during the exchange of views on regional and international issues. Because part of the advocacies in ASEAN that the Philippines will be pushing for is the West Philippine Sea,” Barsana said.

“So he (Aquino) will definitely raise it. And also economic development on small and medium enterprises and climate change and migrant workers protection and welfare. He will pursue all that during the summit,” she added.

Barsana added there will be no bilateral talks with other ASEAN-member countries when Aquino attends next week’s ASEAN Summit in Cambodia.

Worldwide call

The President revealed the Philippine government already made its position clear regarding the issue since Vice President Jejomar Binay “has already voiced during the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Summit in Korea our opposition to the (rocket) launch.”

Binay, who attended the summit held in Seoul, South Korea, said 53 heads of states worldwide have echoed the Philippine government’s call for a nuclear-free world.

He said participating heads of states and organizations from different countries have agreed that it is the fundamental responsibility of each country to maintain effective security of all nuclear material.

Binay said he proposed before the Seoul summit that governments of the world should “continue to strengthen the global nuclear security architecture by sharing information, expertise and technologies with one another, using penal laws that have the most effective and widest possible reach, and creating no safe haven or comfort zone for anyone who breaches nuclear security anywhere in the world.”

Binay added Filipinos have nothing to worry about yet on the rocket launch plan.

He said that in case the conflict between North and South Korea worsens, the Philippine embassy in Seoul is prepared to evacuate the Filipino workers in South Korea.

“Our embassy in Seoul is prepared. They are going together, and if there are some left they will meet in Busan. But we went to the demilitarized zone, there is nothing. When you go to one building, a Korean soldier would approach. You will see him through the glass window. But the situation is normal. You will feel no jittery feeling while you are there,” Binay said.

Binay said a UN officer mentioned to him that the last launch by North Korea passed through Japan.

“A UN officer mentioned to me that the last launch passed through Japan and Japan said it will block it. But there was none. Thank God, Japan did not react,” he said.

He said his visit to South Korea gave him a deeper understanding of the problem of the relationship between North and South Korea. “The latest development involves a plan by the North to launch a space satellite to be lifted by a carrier rocket using ballistic missile technology whose use has been banned by UN Security Council,” Binay added.

He said the plan of the North Korean government to launch a space satellite has provoked serious concern in Northern Asia, including the Philippines, where some debris could reportedly fall.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin earlier said that the Philippine government is seeking US help to track the long-range rocket, part of which is expected to land off the Philippines.

North Korea announced last week it would launch the rocket to place a satellite in orbit between April 12 and 16, insisting it was for peaceful space research.

But the US and other nations see North Korea’s plan as a thinly veiled long-range missile test, which would breach the UN ban.

In a letter to the UN’s International Maritime Organization, North Korea said the second stage of its latest rocket was expected to splash down 190 kilometers east of northern Philippines.

The first stage of the rocket would fall about 140 kilometers off South Korea’s west coast, in international waters between China and South Korea, the letter said.

The Philippine government joined its US and South Korean allies in criticizing North Korea’s planned launch, calling it “unacceptable.”

The US military says North Korea has indicated the rocket will be launched southward, and it is probably intended to land somewhere close to the Philippines or Indonesia.

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