Asian neighbors react to North Korean rocket launch

South Koreans at a train station in Seoul watch a TV screen showing a graphic of North Korea's rocket launch Friday.

Story highlights

  • China state media labeled Japanese plans against the launch as a "pretext" to contain Beijing
  • South Korea and Japanese governments strongly condemned the North Korean rocket launch
  • some critics in Japan questioned why it took Tokyo so long to officially react to the launch

The North Korean rocket launch that threw its neighbors in the Asian region into high alert was greeted with relief on Friday as previously jittery stock markets gained ground and bans on activities in its projected flight path were relaxed.

Meanwhile, China state media labeled Japanese missile defense plans against the launch as a "pretext" to contain Beijing.

South Korea and Japanese governments strongly condemned the North Korean rocket launch, but some critics in Japan questioned why it took Tokyo so long to officially react to the launch.

North Korean rocket launches in the past have flown over parts of southern Japan, heightening tensions in the buildup to Friday's failed launched. In a press conference, Japanese lawmaker Osamu Fujimura told people to "stay calm and go about their normal business," the Daily Yomiuri reported.

However, Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto complained on Twitter that there had been no government statement on the rocket until 8:31 a.m. -- nearly an hour after the launch.

"Information from the television was much faster," he said.

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China Daily ran a piece saying, "DPRK launch is just a pretext."

"Japan hopes to use the DPRK's satellite launch to examine its missile defense capabilities under simulated conditions," said the opinion piece in the state-run publication. The launch is a "proactive policy for containing China and reinforcing its hold on islands it seized from China."

Likewise the U.S. deployed its most advanced radar system to the region and "taking advantage of the launch, to persuade Japan, the ROK (Republic of Korea) and Australia to create a regional missile shield," the article said.

North Korean defectors in China told Japan's Asahi newspaper that the cash spent on the rocket should have gone on food.

"Until I saw the television news in China, I had been grateful because the satellite launch would be proof of the development of our country's science and technology," a female defector told Asahi. "But after learning about the expenses of launching the satellite from news reports during the past week, I feel very sad."

"I would say Great Leader Kim Jong Il got along well with the international community," the defector told Asahi. "Having moved to the era of his son (Kim Jong Un), I am worried about where our country is heading."

Seoul said Pyongyang has to take full responsibility for the launch it condemned as a provocative threat to peace and stability in Northeast Asia, according to Yonhap, the state affiliated news agency.

South Korea's major business organizations strongly criticized the launch.

In a statement, the Federation of Korean Industries denounced the launch as a "provocative" act that threatened peace on the Korean Peninsula, Yonhap reported.

Meanwhile, South Korea stocks opened higher after the launch, signaling that there likely would be little economic repercussions from the launch, the news agency said.

The Philippines lifted a ban on flying, fishing and sailing in some parts of Luzon after the failed launch, but still had a no-fly zone in effect in some areas that authorities feared may have been in the flight path of the rocket. But some criticized the government's pre-launch preparations as an overreaction, GMA News reported.

"(The government's) 'disaster preparedness' is unprecedented in this instance since we do not see such a level of preparation and activity when typhoons arrive in the country," said Giovanni Tapang, a professor at the University of the Philippines National Institute of Physics.