US, Philippines monitoring planned rocket launch
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine and US militaries are coordinating to track the path of a planned North Korean rocket launch, parts of which are expected to land off the archipelago, an official said Saturday.
“The Philippine military is coordinating with its US counterpart in the monitoring of the planned launch,” Foreign Department spokesman Raul Hernandez told Agence France-Presse.
His announcement came a day after the USS Blue Ridge, the flagship of the US 7th Fleet in the Pacific, arrived in Manila for a four-day visit.
Hernandez did not divulge details of the joint monitoring, but the allies were expected to hold large-scale joint military exercises in the middle of April to enhance cooperation in case of external threats.
“We continue to strongly urge the DPRK [North Korea] not to proceed with its planned launch,” Hernandez said.
“They should abide by the UN Security Council resolutions which explicitly demand that they do not conduct any launch using ballistic missile technology.”
Manila’s defense chief, Voltaire Gazmin, said Friday the government needed US help in tracking the rocket’s path, with the poorly equipped Philippine military not having the capability to do so by itself.
Pyongyang announced last week it would launch the rocket to place a satellite in orbit between April 12 and 16, and insisted it was purely for space research.
But the United States and other nations see the launch as a disguised ballistic missile test, and say that it would breach a UN ban on North Korean missile launches.
A previous North Korean long-range rocket in 2009 flew over Japanese territory and the boosters landed safely in waters off Japan.
Kurt Campbell, the US assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said the rocket launch would impact “in an area roughly between Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines,” in a message to Australia’s Foreign Minister Bob Carr, according to a report by the Sydney Morning Herald.
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