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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Russia cautions N. Korea against rocket launch plans

RIA Novosti

27/03/2009 17:58 MOSCOW, March 27 (RIA Novosti) - A deputy Russian foreign minister has joined international criticism of North Korea's planned launch of a rocket, warning the reclusive communist country on Friday against increasing tensions in the region.

North Korea announced plans last month to launch what it says is a communications satellite from its Musudan-ri launch site in early April. However, the U.S., Japan and South Korea believe that the secretive state is planning to test its Taepodong-2 long-range missile.

"We understand that the situation in northeast Asia is currently very tense. It would therefore be better if our North Korean partners were to refrain from the launch," Alexei Borodavkin told reporters.

The deputy also said that Russia has constantly emphasized the need to avoid aggravating the issue. "[We] need to calmly evaluate the situation without any fuss or counter threats, and all of the issues surrounding the launch should be dealt with through dialogue and consultations between the countries concerned," he added.

Russia's early warning system will be put on high alert in connection with the launch, the head of a Russian think tank said on Friday.

"All of our missile attack early warning stations monitoring the eastern sector will be put on high alert ahead of the Korean satellite launch," said Anatoly Tsyganok, head of the Center for Military Forecasts at the Institute of Political and Military Studies.

The Japanese Jiji Press agency last week cited diplomats in Beijing as saying the launch would go ahead on April 4 barring adverse weather conditions or last-minute repairs.

Following the announcement Japan's Security Council on Friday gave approval to the defense ministry to destroy the North Korean rocket if Pyongyang goes ahead with the launch.

"It's important to deal with and eliminate the North Korean projectile should it threaten the people's security and safety by falling into our airspace, waters or soil," Kyodo news agency quoted Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada as saying on Friday.

According to North Korean experts, the first stage of the rocket is due to fall in the Sea of Japan, 130 kilometers (93 miles) off the coast of Japan near the Akita Prefecture, and the second stage is due to come down somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.

Japan has deployed two Aegis destroyer vessels equipped with standard missile-3 interceptors in the Sea of Japan.

Four Patriot guided-missile units will also be deployed on the ground in the prefectures of Akita and Iwate, as well as around the capital, including the Defense Ministry headquarters near the Imperial Palace.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has warned North Korea that the firing of a missile of any kind would be a "provocative act" that could harm the six-party negotiations on the country's denuclearization.

The talks, involving the two Koreas, the United States, Russia, China and Japan, came to a standstill last December, over North Korea's refusal to allow international inspections at nuclear sites.


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