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China 'concerned' over North Korean satellite launch

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DPRK's attempt to launch its Unha-3 rocket in April this year had ended in failure with the rocket exploding in mid-air soon after blast-off. A file photo

BEIJING (AFP): China Sunday said it was concerned at North Korea's plans to launch a rocket later this month, state media reported, in a move strongly condemned by the United States and South Korea.

China, North Korea's sole major ally and its biggest trade partner and aid provider, is seen as one of the few nations with any influence over the regime.

"China ... expressed its concern about the satellite launch plan of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, saying it hopes relevant parties can act in a way that is more conducive to the stability of the Korean peninsula," Xinhua news agency said.

"North Korea has the right to the peaceful use of outer space, but this right is limited by the relevant Security Council resolutions," the agency quoted foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang as saying.

The report came a day after North Korea announced that its second long-range rocket launch this year will take place between December 10 and 22.

The US and its key Asian military allies South Korea and Japan have condemned the planned launch as a disguised ballistic missile test that violates UN resolutions triggered by Pyongyang's two nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

As in April, North Korea said the launch would be a purely "peaceful, scientific" mission aimed at placing a polar-orbiting earth observation satellite into orbit.

Pyongyang has increased its reliance on China in recent years as sanctions over its missile and nuclear programmes strangled its ability to secure international credit and foreign trade.

China joined the other members of the United Nation's 15-strong Security Council to "strongly condemn" North Korea's April launch attempt.

The Council warned Pyongyang this week that going ahead with the December launch, widely seen as aimed at stirring patriotism and support for the country's young, inexperienced ruler Kim Jong-Un, would be "extremely inadvisable".

A report by South Korea's Yonhap News agency on Sunday said that North Korea has notified neighbours including Japan of the trajectory of the rocket.

"The North has notified aviation authorities in nations including Japan that could come under potential danger ... of the timing and expected path (of the rocket)," the agency quoted an unnamed senior Seoul official as saying.

Tokyo reportedly postponed talks due next week with North Korea and ordered its military to prepare to shoot down the rocket if it goes over Japan.

The launch, and in particular a successful launch, would likely draw sanctions, either from individual countries or concerned nations acting as a bloc, a move analysts say could trigger Pyongyang to step-up its nuclear programme.

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N Korea  Rocket  China  
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