North Korea urged to drop rocket launch plans
Russia and China have urged North Korea not to go ahead with a plan for its second rocket launch of 2012, with Moscow saying the launch would violate restrictions imposed by the United Nations Security Council.
North Korea's state news agency on Saturday announced the decision to launch another space satellite and reportedly told neighbours it would take a similar path to that planned for a failed rocket launch in April.
"We urgently appeal to the government (of North Korea) to reconsider the decision to launch a rocket," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Echoing its criticism of the April launch, Russia said North Korea had been warned not to ignore a UN Security Council resolution which "unambiguously prohibits (it) from launching rockets using ballistic technology".
China was not so direct in its criticism of North Korea, but urged "all sides" not to take any action that "worsens the problem".
"China believes that maintaining peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and in Northeast Asia accords with the interests of all sides and is the joint responsibility of all sides," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters.
"In the present circumstances, we hope all sides can be calm and restrained and not take any moves to worsen the problem. China will remain in touch and coordinate with all sides."
In Washington, US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland condemned the launch plan as a provocative threat to the Asia-Pacific region.
Over the weekend Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said the North Korean announcement was extremely disappointing and potentially destabilising.
"New Zealand considers the use of ballistic missile technology to conduct the proposed launch to be inconsistent with UN Security Council resolutions," he said.
"The Government strongly urges North Korea to abandon its launch plan, work constructively with its neighbours and the international community, and stop its nuclear weapons programme."
ELECTION IN SOUTH
North Korea says its rockets are used to put satellites into orbit for peaceful purposes. Russia said in its statement North Korea would be allowed only to exercise its right to peaceful activity in space if the UN-imposed restrictions were lifted.
The warnings come just weeks before South Korea's December 19 presidential election in which how to handle North Korea is a major campaign issue. The isolated North has for years tried to influence major events in the South by issuing propaganda or launching armed attacks.
North and South Korea have been technically at war since their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, and regional powers have for years been trying to rein in the North's nuclear program.
Countries trying to stop North Korea's arms program believe it is using rocket launches to perfect technology to build a missile arsenal capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the United States.
North Korea is under UN sanctions that ban trading in missile or nuclear technology that have driven its already dire economy deeper in trouble by cutting off what was once a lucrative source of hard cash.
Russia has often balanced criticism of Soviet-era client state North Korea's nuclear activities and missile launches with calls on other powers to refrain from belligerent actions against it, which Russia says can be counterproductive.
Russia is a permanent member of the UN Security Council and is upset by any defiance of council resolutions. Past launches by Pyongyang have caused concern among Russians living near the country's border with North Korea.