N.Korea to launch satellite while China sends envoy to Pyongyang

By Zhang Hui and Wu Gang Source:Global Times Published: 2016-2-3 1:08:01

Foreign ministry confirms envoy in Pyongyang

North Korea issued a shipping warning of a satellite launch between February 8 and 25, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) said late Tuesday.

"We have received information from DPRK regarding the launch of earth observation satellite 'Kwangmyongsong' between 8-25 February," a spokeswoman with the IMO told Reuters by e-mail.

If the launch goes ahead, it would be in violation of United Nations sanctions. The US had already claimed that Pyongyang was preparing to launch a long-range missile, after seeing activity at a test site by satellite.

North Korea last launched a satellite in 2012 and claims the right to develop space technology. Western and Asian experts, however, claim it is trying to disguise the development of a long-range ballistic missile system, Reuters reported.

The news comes as Chinese special envoy to North Korea Wu Dawei flew to Pyongyang for the first time since the North said it had detonated a nuclear bomb on January 6.

Analysts expressed caution over the outcome of Wu's visit, saying it could help ease growing tensions in the Korean Peninsula, but said that expectations were low for any significant progress in bringing North Korea back to denuclearization talks.

China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed with the Global Times on Tuesday  that Wu, China's special envoy for Korean Peninsula affairs, is now in Pyongyang to "exchange ideas over the current situation."

The visit is widely seen as China's latest move to bring North Korea back to the Six-Party Talks after its fourth nuclear bomb test. The foreign ministry declined to comment on the specific details of Wu's visit.

The US and South Korea have been pushing for tougher sanctions on the North after it announced a successful test of a hydrogen bomb in January. North Korea announced nuclear tests respectively in 2006, 2009 and 2013.

Lü Chao, a professor at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, said Wu's visit is a key move at a crucial time during North Korea's nuclear proliferation.

"Wu's main purpose is to explain China's position and principles concerning North Korea's nuclear issue and also to urge North Korea to give up its nuclear program," he said, adding that the visit is conducive to keeping tensions on the Korean Peninsula from further worsening, and should help in the resumption of the Six-Party Talks.

China insists on a Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons, but emphasizes solving the issue through peaceful negotiations.

The Six-Party Talks initiated by China in 2003, which involved the US, Japan, South Korea, Russia and North Korea, were suspended in 2009 after the North withdrew.

China has spoken with Japan and South Korea over the North Korean nuclear issue after the latest test.

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Beijing last week to press China for tougher sanctions on North Korea.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the media on January 27 that China agreed with the US that the UN could pass new resolutions in response to the latest nuclear test. But he emphasized that "Sanctions are not our goal, the key lies in restarting dialogue."

After the recent North Korea nuclear test, China rejected accusations that it could have used its influence to do more to pressure the North into abandoning its nuclear ambitions.

Limited effect

Jin Qiangyi, director of the Asia Studies Center at Yanbian University, remained cautious over the outcome of the Chinese envoy's trip.

"Wu's visit can only have a limited effect in easing tensions on the Peninsula," Jin told the Global Times on Tuesday.

"North Korea could agree to delay the launch of its rocket in order to ask China to resist the US push for tougher UN sanctions, but Wu's visit is unlikely to achieve fundamental results, such as persuade North Korea to give up nuclear weapon development," he said, adding that North Korea has stated several times that it would continue nuclear tests.

Lü agreed that the major hurdle to the latest China-North Korea talks lies in the North's "stubborn" attitude in pursing nuclear capabilities, which will also impede the restart of the Six-Party Talks. "If it refuses to change its attitude, the Peninsula could spiral further out of control."

Wu held talks with US special representative for North Korean policy Sung Kim in Beijing on January 29. The two sides exchanged views on the situation in the Korean Peninsula and the Six-Party Talks, according to the Chinese government.

Newspaper headline: N.Korea to launch satellite

Posted in: Diplomacy

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