|North Korea begins to fuel rocket|
US and Japan threaten "appropriate action" as Pyongyang says it has begun fuelling rocket for planned launch.
Last Modified: 11 Apr 2012 08:18
North Korea has begun fuelling a rocket ahead of a planned launch expected later this week which it says will put a satellite into space, according to an official.
Paek Chang-ho, head of the satellite control centre of the Korean Committee of Space Technology, announced the latest preparations on Wednesday, as the US and Japan called on Pyongyang not to go ahead with the launch.
"We are injecting fuel as we speak. It has started," Paek told visiting foreign journalists outside the capital, Pyongyang.
Paek said the exact timing of the launch had not yet been decided. North Korea has previously said the launch will take place between April 12 and 16 as part of celebrations to mark the centenary of the birth of the country's founding president Kim Il-Sung.
But Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, urged North Korea not to go ahead with a planned rocket launch if it wanted a "peaceful, better future" for its people.
"We are consulting closely in capitals and at the United Nations in New York and we will be pursuing appropriate action," Clinton said at a press conference on Tuesday with Koichiro Gemba, Japan's foreign minister, who echoed her remarks.
"If North Korea wants a peaceful, better future for their people, it should not conduct another launch that would be a direct threat to regional security," the chief US diplomat said.
Gemba spoke of US-Japanese co-operation if North Korea goes ahead with the launch of a rocket, which critics say amounts to a disguised missile test by the reclusive nuclear-armed state.
"The United States and Japan would co-operate with each other and the international community, including the [UN] Security Council, would take an appropriate measure," Gemba said.
Neither Clinton nor Gemba explained what they meant by "appropriate" action.
South Korea has already threatened to deliver a "firm response" to "provocation" if the North does goes ahead with its planned launch.
Japan has also braced itself for the launch, having put missile batteries on alert to shoot the rocket down if it passes through Japanese airspace.
The Unha-3 rocket is expected to fly past western Japan, raising concerns that a failed launch, or a falling stage of the rocket, could endanger Japanese lives or property.
"They have come pretty far on the question of range, but they still need a lot to resolve in the precision technology needed for [warhead] re-entry and guidance," a South Korean military official who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Reuters news agency.
and Japan , south Korea and the US get ready ....
MANILA, Philippines - Cities and towns across Luzon – including Metro Manila – are on standby for possible evacuation in case a rocket launch being readied by North Korea goes awry and rains debris on the Philippines.
“All local government units in Luzon were asked to come up with plans in the event that the debris falls in their area of jurisdiction. These include identifying food assistance, evacuation and medical contingency,” said Allan Tabell, a director of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and liaison to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).
“(DILG) Secretary (Jesse) Robredo has ordered all governors and mayors in northeastern Luzon including Bicol to prepare contingency plans. We are talking about practically the entire Luzon,” Tabell said in a press briefing yesterday.
“There’s a possibility of mass casualty,” the DILG official said. “If it (debris) falls on a populated area, there is a possibility of suffering casualties. That is what we are preparing for. Walang kapalit ang paghahanda (There’s no substitute for preparedness),” he added.
Tabell could not tell how many evacuation centers would be set up. He nevertheless said it is presumed that each town or city has at least one evacuation center. There are about 400 municipalities and cities in Luzon.
NDRRMC executive director Benito Ramos said it would be up to the local governments to decide whether to conduct preemptive evacuation. Ramos said even local governments in Metro Manila should come up with contingency measures.
Ramos said there is a “hairline difference” between Metro Manila and Polilio Island in Quezon, which is near the rocket’s path.
“The 150 nautical miles east of Polilio Island is adjacent to Metro Manila. There is a hairline difference. I’m not discounting the possibility (that the debris will hit Metro Manila),” he said.
Earlier, North Korea bared plans to launch a rocket – purportedly to place a satellite in orbit – sometime on April 12 to 16. The rocket is scheduled to be launched at 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. (Philippine time).
The launch was also part of the celebration of the 100th birth anniversary of North Korea’s founding president Kim Il-Sung, which falls on April 15.
The United States and other countries suspect that the launch is a disguised long-range missile test – a violation of the ban imposed by the United Nations.
The initial stage of North Korea’s latest rocket is expected to fall about 140 kilometers off South Korea’s west coast, in international waters between China and South Korea.
The second stage is expected to splash down 190 kilometers east of northern Philippines.
Tabell said state scientists have drawn three possible scenarios on the rocket launch.
Under the first scenario, the entire solid metal booster of the rocket would crash on earth or in the sea. Another scenario is that the metal booster would break into pieces due to friction.
Under the third scenario, the booster would disintegrate totally. “The best scenario is for launch not to take place,” Tabell said.
Ramos said 50,000 soldiers from the Armed Forces’ Northern Luzon Command and Southern Luzon Command are ready to assist in emergency situations. He said military reservists and non-government organizations are also ready to provide assistance.
The areas that may be affected include Buguey, Gonzaga, Santa Ana of Cagayan; Palanan, Maconacon, Divilacan, Dinapigue; Casiguran, Dilasag, Dinalungan, Baler, and Dingalan in Aurora; Real, Infanta, Nakar in Quezon, Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur.
The government will implement a “no-fly zone” over areas along the likely path of North Korea’s rocket from April 12 to 16. About 100 international flights to and from Japan and South Korea will be affected by the declaration.
The NDRRMC will also enforce a “no sail zone” and “no fishing zone” in waters below the likely path of the rocket. The areas covered by the declaration are Cagayan, Isabela, Aurora, Quezon, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur and Catanduanes.
Ramos also lashed out at critics of government’s contingency measures.
“It is better called OA than ‘No A’ or no acting,” he said.
Ramos said he had experienced losing soldiers due to human errors when he was still in the military. Ramos is a former commander of the Army’s Special Operations Command. “If you have not experienced losing men, you won’t understand me,” Ramos said, referring to his critics.
“If I do something, you will blame me. If I don’t do anything, you will blame me. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” he added.
Robredo called on governors, mayors and other local officials to make sure people and properties are safe from possible debris from North Korea’s rocket.
“Considering that the debris of the missile test might fall in Philippine territory, you are hereby directed to take all precautionary measures to prevent loss of lives and property,” said Robredo in a directive to concerned local officials of Regions I, II, III , IV-A, V, and the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).
The Department of Foreign Affairs said it will continue to voice the country’s objection to North Korea’s rocket launch even as Malacañang stressed that powerful nations belonging to the six-party talks could best handle the problem.
“We have always maintained that the six-party talks is the most effective means of addressing the North Korea issue. So we agree with Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a press briefing.
He said a no-fly zone had been imposed on some areas “because there’s a sliver of sea where the debris is likely to fall, so that’s being anticipated.
“But as (the President) has mentioned, the only time that we will be able to determine is once it is launched,” Lacierda said.
“The DFA and our embassies have strongly articulated to DPRK officials the Philippines’ objection to the launch, which DPRK embassies took note of and reported to Pyongyang,” Foreign Affairs spokesperson Raul Hernandez said.
Science Secretary Mario Montejo, for his part, urged the public to remain calm, saying “there’s a remote chance harmful debris from the rocket will hit us.”
“I also can’t see why the North Koreans would load dangerous chemicals unto the rocket - they said this was designed to carry a satellite” he said over dzRH.
Lawmakers called on the public yesterday to remain calm even as they scored government disaster officials for “panic mongering.”
“We ask the public to stay calm. Dr. Alumanda de la Rosa of the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PNRI) said they have not gathered any information the tests will involve any radioactive material,” Agham party-list Rep. Angelo Palmones said in a statement.
He said the PNRI, as part of its mandate, is monitoring gamma radiation in the air daily.
“If ever debris fall in the country, we advise the public not to panic. Know what could be done to protect yourself, and your family in case of danger or possible threat. If it is radioactive the shorter the time of exposure and the farther you stay away from it, the lesser the dose of radiation you can get,” he said.
ACT Teachers party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio also criticized the government’s disaster management agencies for “sowing unwarranted fear and panic among the public.”
Tinio cited an advisory issued by the NDRRMC entitled “NDRRMC Update: Suspected DPRK Long-Range Ballistic Missile Test, ca [sic] April 12-16, 2012.”
“The NDRRMC report is riddled with politically-charged rhetoric, irresponsible generalizations, and absurd recommendations that grossly exaggerate any danger posed by the North Korean rocket. They are spreading misinformation and sowing fear among the public. It’s outrageous and unacceptable,” Tinio said.
“The North Koreans are launching a satellite on that rocket, not a nuclear warhead. Yet Ramos even refers to it as an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile or ICBM, evoking the doomsday weapon of the Cold War. Such exaggerated language is totally inappropriate coming from a bureaucrat in charge of ensuring public order and safety. Leave the rhetoric to the diplomats and politicians,” he said.
“So why ask the whole population of Luzon to stay indoors? It’s totally out of proportion to the danger posed by the rocket debris, which is expected to fall in Philippine waters some 200 kilometers east of Luzon. Why is this government asking nearly 50 percent of the population to cower under their roofs when the splashdown will take place far from Philippine soil?” Tinio said.
Even Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes downplayed the rocket launch’s potential threat. “Tell the people not to panic. Many times such fears are unfounded. Remember the Skylab many years ago? Nothing fell.”
He was referring to the first experimental space station of the United States, which careened out of control and fell back to earth in 1979 harmlessly scattering debris across the Indian Ocean and West Australia.
“Pray that the leaders of North Korea would rather feed their hungry people than show a false military might,” he said.
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo also appealed for prayers.
“We should pray that North Korea would not push through with its plan because we do not know the damages that we might suffer. We do not even know if Japan or the United States would shoot it down, if they would bring down any rocket that would be launched,” Pabillo said.
“We do not know where it would fall and that is why we should exercise caution and we should pray that this crisis would not happen to the world,” he added.
The militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) accused the government of overreacting to the planned rocket launch, saying it was blindly joining the US in hyping a supposed threat of nuclear fallout from the rocket launch.