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US ambassador says planned N. Korea missile launch threatens region's peace

SEOUL — The U.S. ambassador to South Korea warned Tuesday that North Korea’s plan to launch a satellite “would be a highly provocative act that threatens peace and security in the region.”

In a blog entry posted on the U.S. Embassy website, Sung Kim wrote that American officials are “consulting closely” with their allies about “our next steps,” but he stopped short of suggesting what they may be.

North Korea announced over the weekend that it would, for the second time this year, attempt to launch a satellite sometime between Dec. 10 and 22. A similar attempt in April failed.

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According to The Associated Press, South Korean officials have accused North Korea of trying to influence the South’s presidential election with what they consider provocations meant to put pressure on voters and on the United States as the North seeks concessions. Conservative Park Geun-hye, the daughter of late President Park Chung-hee, is facing liberal Moon Jae-in in the South Korean presidential vote. Polls show the candidates in a close race.

North Korea is “working hard to influence the upcoming election. They may have a preferred candidate,” South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said in an interview with a small group of foreign reporters in the presidential Blue House, the AP reported. “Even if they test fire a missile, it will not have a big impact on the election,” Lee said, speaking through an interpreter.

In the past, U.S. officials have said they consider North Korea’s efforts to launch satellites as cover for the testing of its missile technology.

In fact, Sung Kim’s blog post was titled, “We stand against a (North Korean) missile launch.”

Referring to meetings he has had recently with South Korean government officials, the ambassador wrote, “Our message is clear and united… Any North Korean launch using ballistic missile technology is in direct violation of (United Nations) Security Council Resolutions 1718 and 1874.”

“We call on North Korea to comply fully with its obligations under all relevant UN Security Council resolutions,” he wrote.

Devoting its resources to the development of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles only further isolates the North, he wrote.

“The path to security for North Korea lies in investing in its people and abiding by its commitments and international obligations.”

rabiroffj@pstripes.osd.mil

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