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World News

N.Korea rocket launch plan threat to peace: U.N.

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - If North Korea follows through on its plans to launch a satellite next month it will jeopardize the stability of the region, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday.

“I’m concerned about the DPRK’s (North Korea) recent move to launch a satellite or long-range missiles,” Ban told reporters at a monthly news conference. “This will threaten the peace and stability in the region.”

Ban did not specify how far-reaching any regional instability caused by a North Korean rocket launch would spread. North Korea fired a missile over Japan in 1998 and its newer missiles are designed to reach as far as Alaska.

He added that it also went against “the main tenets of regional peace and security.” Seoul and Pyongyang signed an eight-point peace agreement in 2007 that covered issues such as permanent peace, high-level dialogue and economic cooperation.

Ban urged North Korea to comply with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718, which was adopted unanimously after North Korea’s nuclear test in October 2006. It said Pyongyang should not conduct either nuclear tests or ballistic missile launches and should abandon both programs.

“I hope they’ll abide by the relevant Security Council resolution and return to the six-party talks and fully and faithfully implement the agreement of the six-party talks,” he said.

Asked if he thought a rocket launch would qualify as a violation of Resolution 1718, Ban said: “That’s what Security Council members will discuss when and after anything happens.”

Japan, which joined the Security Council for a two-year stint in January, said a rocket launch would be a violation of U.N. resolutions. But permanent council member China, North Korea’s only major ally, has veto powers and could block any Security Council action.

Long-running six-party talks between the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States on the North’s nuclear programs have stalled, with implementation of an initial energy-for-disarmament deal stuck on Pyongyang’s refusal to allow nuclear material to be taken abroad for tests.

Ban added that he also hoped for an improvement in bilateral relations between Seoul and Pyongyang.

North Korea has reportedly given global agencies notice of its plans to launch a satellite from April 4-8, a move that Washington has called “provocative” and views as a disguised long-range missile test.

Pyongyang gave notice it expects the first stage of the rocket to splash down in the Sea of Japan, and the second stage to splash down in the Pacific Ocean, South Korean’s Yonhap news agency quoted sources familiar with the notice as saying.

Editing by Eric Beech

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