Ma Ying-jeou expresses concern over NKorea rocket launch

Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou expressed serious concern over North Korea’s rocket launch Dec. 12, urging Pyongyang to abandon actions that destabilize East Asia.

“Ma thinks it is very unwise for North Korea to create tensions in East Asia and feels displeased,” Presidential Office spokesman Fan Chiang Tai-chi said. “No matter what measures Japan, South Korea and the U.S. decide to take in response to the incident, they will have the ROC’s fully fledged support.”

North Korea’s state news agency reported that the long-range Eunha-3, or Galaxy-3, rocket succeeded in carrying a satellite into space. It blasted off at 8:51 a.m. local time from Sohae launch facility, which is close to the country’s west coast and around 50 kilometers from the mainland Chinese border.

A similar attempt took place in April marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of North Korea founder Kim Il-sung. But the missile broke up 90 seconds after liftoff, sending debris into the ocean 165 kilometers west of Seoul.

The timing of the event came somewhat as a surprise. Earlier in the week, Pyongyang extended the launch window to Dec. 29, claiming the rocket was plagued with technical problems. But analysts at home and abroad were skeptical, suspecting the communist nation may have been trying to convince Japan and the U.S. to scale back aerial and satellite surveillance over Sohae.

The ROC Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on North Korea to abide by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874, avoid actions that raise regional tensions, and work with other countries to promote peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in East Asia.

“Taiwan is a responsible stakeholder in the Asia-Pacific region and does not want to see a rise in tensions undermining regional stability,” a MOFA official said. “We will continue monitoring the situation and propose all necessary measures to safeguard national interests.”

Adopted unanimously by the U.N. Security Council June 12, 2009, in the wake of a North Korean underground nuclear test conducted May 25 the same year, the resolution imposes economic and commercial sanctions on Pyongyang and requires U.N. members stop and search suspicious shipments from the isolated state.

Separately, ROC Ministry of National Defense spokesman David Lo confirmed that the rocket was detected by the MND’s new long-range early-warning radar system shortly after launch.

The first and second stages fell into the waters off South Korea and the Philippines, respectively, he said, adding that the debris had not affected Taiwan.

The MND was on high alert for the launch, Lo said, citing heightened missile monitoring and the activation of Patriot and Sky Bow air defense systems in northern Taiwan. ROC navy Kidd-class destroyers were also deployed under the rocket’s flight path.

Rachel Chan