Acceptance of invite to North launch ‘would be improper’


Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said Tuesday it would be improper for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency to accept an invitation to observe North Korea’s planned rocket launch when Tokyo is calling for a halt to the launch.

Fujimura was referring to an invitation by Pyongyang to JAXA to visit North Korea and attend its planned launch between April 12 and 16.

The launch is seen by Japan, the United States and South Korea as cover for a long-range ballistic missile test.

“Given that our country is urging (North Korea) to refrain from its launch, it is naturally inappropriate for people from Japan to be present at this test launch,” Fujimura said at a news conference.

He said the administration has expressed this view to JAXA.

The invitation, dated March 30 and sent by the Korean Committee for Space and Technology, is seen as an attempt by Pyongyang to argue the launch is peaceful in nature.

The deadline for a response is Thursday. JAXA is set to decline the invitation because no response could be interpreted as tacit approval of the launch, sources said.

The invitation came after Pyongyang’s space committee said it would invite numerous experienced overseas space experts and journalists to observe the launch.

According to the sources, JAXA was invited to observe the launch at Sohae Satellite Launching Station constructed at Tongchang-ri in North Korea’s North Phyongan Province.

Pyongyang says the rocket will be carrying the Kwangmyongsong-3 Earth observation satellite, which will travel in a north-south polar orbit. Those attending will participate in a private capacity, the sources said, adding that the participants would enter North Korea around April 7 and stay for about 10 days.

North Korea has also reportedly offered necessary documents to the International Maritime Organization, the International Civil Aviation Organization and other international organizations concerning the launch of the satellite.

Sanctions are extended


Following the lack of progress in resolving Pyongyang’s abductions of Japanese citizens, the government Tuesday approved extending sanctions against North Korea for another year.

The sanctions, due to expire April 13, include banning all imports from and exports to North Korea. Japan has been imposing punitive measures on North Korea since July 2006 following a long-range missile test.

The extension comes as North Korea is preparing for the launch of a satellite on a long-range rocket to mark the centennial of the April 15 birth of its founder, Kim Il Sung.

Japan is exploring the possibility of introducing additional punitive measures if North Korea goes ahead with the launch, according to government officials.