Dec 4, 2012

UN - UN chief 'concerned' over North Korea launch plans

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UNITED NATIONS: UN chief Ban Ki-moon is "seriously concerned" about North Korea's planned rocket launch, warning that it could heighten tensions in the region, his office said in a statement Tuesday.

Pyongyang announced Saturday that it intends to launch a long-range rocket between December 10 and 22, a move condemned by the United States, South Korea and Japan.

Ban said the move would violate UN Security Council resolutions forbidding North Korea from conducting any launches using ballistic missile technology.

"The Secretary-General strongly urges the DPRK to reconsider its decision and to suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile program," Ban's office said, using the acronym for North Korea's official name.

"He further calls upon the DPRK to re-establish its moratorium on missile launches, as required by the Security Council."

South Korea's top nuclear envoy Lim Sung-Nam said that Seoul and Washington would "maximize" diplomatic efforts to halt the launch as he headed to the United States on Tuesday for talks on the matter.

The United States and its East Asia allies have condemned the proposed launch as a disguised ballistic missile test that violates UN resolutions triggered by Pyongyang's two nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

Pyongyang insists the launch is a "peaceful" and purely scientific mission aimed at placing a satellite in orbit.

A previous attempt in April failed when the carrier exploded shortly after take-off.

China, the North's closest ally, has expressed "concern" at the launch plan, with the foreign ministry urging "relevant parties (to) act in a way that is more conducive to the stability of the Korean peninsula".

Russia on Monday added its "regret" at Pyongyang's announcement and noted that North Korea was obliged to abide by UN resolutions.

Analysts say the international community is running out of options for pressuring the impoverished but nuclear-armed North, which is already under layers of sanctions.

The six-party, aid-for-denuclearization talks have been at a standstill since Pyongyang walked out of the forum in April 2009. It staged its second nuclear test a month later.

- AFP/ck

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