China "worried" over planned North Korea rocket launch
By Bill Smith Apr 8, 2012, 9:48 GMT
Beijing - Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told his South Korean and Japanese counterparts that China was 'concerned and worried' about the potential impact of North Korea's planned rocket launch this month, state media said on Sunday.
China hoped all parties would 'keep calm and exercise restraint' and resolve differences over the planned launch through dialogue, the official Xinhua news agency quoted Yang as telling the South Korean and Japanese ministers.
Yang said China would would 'keep communication and coordination with all sides' to promote six-nation talks on ending North Korea's nuclear weapons programme.
Adding to the tension, South Korea's Yonhap news agency on Sunday quoted an unidentified intelligence official as saying he believed North Korea was making preparations to conduct its third nuclear test.
Satellite images showed workers 'digging a new tunnel underground' in the same north-eastern area where North Korea conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, the South Korean agency reported.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Yang held trilateral talks with South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung Hwan and Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba in the eastern city of Ningbo on Sunday, following bilateral sessions with them on Saturday.
The ministry gave no immediate details of Sunday's talks but Yonhap quoted an unidentified official as saying the three ministers had agreed that the planned rocket launch would violate UN Security Council resolutions.
China has not previously stated that the launch would violate UN resolutions, a charge made by the United States, Japan and South Korea.
Yonhap quoted South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Byung Jaean as saying Kim had urged China to 'play a greater role' in resolving the diplomatic row and send a 'strong and stern message' over the planned rocket launch.
Japan and South Korea have threatened to shoot down the North Korean rocket if it flies over their territory.
But North Korea on Thursday said the planned launch would go ahead as planned in mid-April, and warned that it would consider any successful interception as 'an act of war.'
US, South Korean and Japanese analysts also warned that the launch could be a cover for a ballistic missile test and would violate UN resolutions.
North Korea said it would launch an Earth observation satellite on board the rocket between April 12 and 16 to commemorate the centenary of the birth of its founder, Kim Il Sung, on April 15.
On Saturday, the official Korean Central News Agency published a photograph of about 30 foreign journalists who had arrived in Pyongyang to watch the launch.
China, South Korea, Japan, the United States and Russia have held several rounds of six-nation talks with North Korea aimed at persuading it to give up its nuclear programme in exchange for economic and diplomatic concessions.
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