US Warns North Korea Not to Launch Satellite, But Not Sure How to Deter Them

By Kate Barrett

Mar 12, 2009 5:13pm

ABC News’ Kirit Radia Reports: The State Department today confirmed that North Korea had informed various international agencies that it plans to launch "some sort of experimental communications satellite" during the first week of April.

Acting spokesman Robert Wood warned that such a launch would be a "provocative" act that would destabilize the region.

"We think the North needs to desist or not carry out this type of provocative act and sit down with the other members of the six-party talks and work on the process of denuclearization of the Korean peninsula," Wood told reporters.

Wood, however, conceded that the United States did not know how to deter Pyongyang from going ahead with its launch plans.

"It’s hard to say what will influence North Korea. We just don’t know. What we want to try to do is work with our partners and others around the world who share this interest in preventing the North from carrying out this type of provocative act," he said.

Wood would not elaborate on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s remarks Wednesday that the United States and its allies were weighing a range of responses should North Korea proceed with the launch.

He said the US is engaged in diplomatic efforts to try and convince Pyongyang not to go ahead, but provided no further details. A senior State Department official later said that the United States and North Korea had communicated last week via the so-called New York Channel, meaning through their diplomatic missions at the United Nations, but the official did not know if this specific issue was discussed.

Clinton Wednesday said US six-party talks envoy Stephen Bosworth was prepared to go to Pyongyang on his recent trip to Asia, but was not invited.

"He was not invited to go to North Korea, which we regret," Clinton said yesterday after meeting with the visiting Chinese foreign minister.

Today Wood said there were no plans to send Bosworth to North Korea.

Some reports have suggested that North Korea’s announced satellite launch could be a cover for a test of a new long-range missile capable of hitting the western United States.

In an interview with ABC’s Martha Raddatz, Admiral Timothy Keating, the head of the US military’s Pacific Command that covers North Korea, said the US military would be ready to shoot down the North Korean rocket if ordered to do so.

"We’ve got Aegis cruisers, we’ve got radars, we’ve got space-based systems, we’ve got ground-based interceptors. We will be fully prepared to respond as the President directs," Keating said.

"If we detect something other than a spaced-launch vehicle and we respond, odds are very high that we’ll hit what we’re aiming at with our ground-based interceptors," he added.

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