N. Korea Rejects Rocket Launch Criticism as China Cautions

North Korea rejected international criticism of its planned satellite launch next month as China cautioned its ally in the first sign of tension since Kim Jong Un succeeded his father as head of the totalitarian state.

U.S., Japanese and South Korean condemnation is “a base move to deny the DPRK’s right to use space for peaceful purposes and encroach upon its sovereignty,” the official Korean Central News Agency said yesterday, referring to the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. North Korea has no intention of canceling its plans, KCNA said.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun expressed his “worry” over the March 16 announcement to North Korean ambassador Ji Jae Ryong, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The U.S. said the launch, which is to mark the 100th anniversary of state founder Kim Il Sung’s birth, would negate an agreement to provide food aid in exchange for a North Korean moratorium on nuclear and missile tests.

North Korea is dependent on energy and food assistance from China, which has sought to support its neighbor to avoid unrest that could hinder trade and prompt a wave of refugees across its border. Kim Jong Un took over after his father Kim Jong Il died in December and the launch is part of an effort by the regime to bolster his image ahead of his grandfather’s April 15 centennial.

‘Tough for Beijing’

China “doesn’t want to give the impression it’s supporting what North Korea is doing,” said Robert Dujarric, director of the Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies at Temple University in Tokyo. “It’s tough for Beijing. They have to criticize it, but they can’t do much more.”

“We sincerely hope parties concerned stay calm and exercise restraint and avoid escalation of tension that may lead to a more complicated situation,” Zhang told Ji, according to the statement. China has noted the international reaction to North Korea’s announcement, Zhang said.

Defense-related stocks surged today in Seoul, with Speco Co. (013810), manufacturer of naval ship equipment, rose 7.7 percent to 2,660 won, while Victek Co. (065450), an electronic warfare equipment maker rose 8 percent to 1,830 won. Huneed Technologies (005870), a military communication equipment maker, jumped 11 percent to 3,600 won. The benchmark Kospi Index increased 0.6 percent to 2,047.00.

Japan has instructed its military to gather information on the firing and is considering the deployment of sea and land anti-missile defenses, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura told reporters in Tokyo today. The rocket could pass over Japan’s southern island of Okinawa, he said.

Japan made similar considerations in 2009, when North Korea fired a rocket it claimed was a satellite in defiance of the United Nations.

Journalists Invited

“You may want to hit it before it looks like it’s going to hit Japan,” Dujarric said. “You don’t want to fire at it if it clearly isn’t going to hit Japanese territory because no one wants an escalation with North Korea.”

International experts and journalists will be invited to watch the launch, KCNA said on March 17.

South Korea Presidential Spokesman Park Jeong Ha today called the North’s plan a “grave provocation.” The South’s military will increase surveillance efforts with the U.S. and maintain readiness as further antagonisms are “highly likely” to follow, said Yoon Won Sik, a defense ministry spokesman.

Peaceful Purpose

The Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite will be mounted on a Unha-3 rocket and sent from a station in North Phyongan province between April 12 and April 16, a spokesman for the North Korean Committee for Space Technology said in a statement reported by KCNA. The launch is for “peaceful purposes” and will “strictly abide by relevant international regulations,” the unidentified spokesman said.

The announcement is “highly provocative” and a launch would violate UN resolutions prohibiting North Korea’s use of ballistic missile technology, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said last week. The Obama administration has told North Korea going ahead with the mission would be a “deal breaker” for the food-aid agreement, she said.

Under the deal reached in February, the U.S. agreed to provide an initial 240,000 metric tons of food in monthly 20,000-ton increments. The accord opened the possibility for the resumption of six-party talks to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons development.

North Korea backed out of the talks, which include Russia, China, the U.S., Japan and South Korea, shortly after its April 2009 satellite test and has shown no sign that it’s willing to resume them.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andy Sharp in Tokyo at asharp5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Tighe at ptighe@bloomberg.net

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