Conflict & Justice

Barack Obama to visit DMZ amid concern over North Korean rocket launch


This picture, released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency on April 9, 2009, shows a Unha-2 rocket launch. The country said it would launch another rocket into orbit next month.



President Barack Obama will visit the demilitarized zone that separates North Korea from the South for the first time on Sunday.

The news came as the US, South Korea and Japan expressed concern over North Korea's plan to put a satellite into orbit on a rocket.

North Korea's Committee for Space Technology announced on March 16 that the country would send Kwangmyongsong-3, a polar-orbiting satellite, into space atop the domestically manufactured Unha-3 rocket, Asia Times Online reported.

However, the three Western nations are concerned that North Korea's rudimentary technology and limited experience in launching long-range rockets might result in a "catastrophic failure" that could cause it to crash near South Korean territory, according to Britain's Daily Telegraph.

They have also suggested that the launch of the Unha-3 rocket — scheduled for mid-April as part of celebrations to mark the 100th birthday of Kim Il-sung, North Korea's founder — is actually a test for a ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear weapon, the paper reported.

The launch is to take place at the country's new aerospace facility at Tongchang-ri, close to the border with China in the far north-west of the country.

China has also expressed concern over the launch.

More from GlobalPost: China worried over North Korea missile launch

However, the Telegraph wrote, Pyongyang told International Civil Aviation Organisation and the International Maritime Organisation that the rocket will travel almost due south, with the propulsion stage of the rocket likely to fall into waters around 80 miles off the South Korean coast.

The rocket will also fly over Japan and Taiwan, before falling into the ocean an estimated 118 miles off the Philippines, the Telegraph wrote.

The US has warned North Korea that the rocket launch could jeopardize a food-aid agreement reached with Pyongyang in early March.

More from GlobalPost: North Korea's rocket launch would defy UN VIDEO

Meanwhile, CNN reported that Obama's visit to the heavily fortified DMZ would form part of a three-day trip to South Korea to participate in a summit meeting about nuclear security in Seoul.

The DMZ is considered one of the most dangerous places on earth, according to VOA, where heavily armed soldiers from North Korea and South Korea face each other 24/7, their countries locked in a technical state of war since the Korean War armistice in 1953.

VOA cited Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes as saying Tuesday that the president's DMZ visit was mainly to show support for the more than 28,000 US troops serving in Korea and to stress America's security alliance with South Korea.

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