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Seoul wants UN action over North Korean rocket by month's end

SEOUL -- South Korea is seeking to speed up lackluster discussions at the UN Security Council to hammer out its response to North Korea's recent rocket launch by the end of the month, Seoul officials said Wednesday.

The 15-member council has been mulling action over the December 12 liftoff, which violates its bans on Pyongyang's nuclear and missile activity. But talks languished in the face of China's resistance to punishment against its unruly ally and the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Now a member of the top decision-making body, Seoul is aiming to reach agreement with other members before it assumes its rotating chairship next month. Its two-year non-permanent membership began on Jan. 1.

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"Our goal is to complete discussions within this month," a senior official at the Foreign Ministry told reporters on customary condition of anonymity.

The official, who has direct knowledge of the talks, noted that the rotating chairship lends no weight to the country's stance but other countries would not want to see it drag on until its presidency given its high stakes.

"I can tell you that informal yet active talks will get under way over the next two weeks at the latest. There has not been any significant shift (in China's position) but we're making a push," he added.

"Our standpoint is that a UNSC measure should be swift and potent. We can't set a deadline because of the two-week hiatus -- content is more important."

While Seoul and Washington call for stronger action, veto-wielding China has taken flak for defending the North and being a perennial obstacle to enforcement of sanctions.

Beijing has acknowledged a breach of resolutions but said that any UNSC measure should be "prudent" and not escalate tension.

On Tuesday, US Department of State spokesperson Victoria Nuland also reiterated in Washington that "consultations continue among the permanent members of the Security Council on an appropriate resolution in response to the North Korean launch".

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