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U.S. suggests N.K. rely on China or Russia for satellite launch

The U.S. suggested in an informal meeting in Berlin that North Korea ask China or Russia to launch its satellite Kwangmyongsong-3, but the North refused, a news report said.

Japan’s TV Asahi reported that a civilian U.S. delegation, which met with its North Korean counterpart, offered the alternative if the North’s planned rocket launch was for peaceful purposes as claimed.

However, the North rejected the offer, it said.

The report said Ri Gun, director-general of the North American affairs bureau of the North’s foreign ministry, met with former U.S. government officials including Thomas Pickering, former undersecretary of state for political affairs.

Informal talks between North Korean and U.S. delegations would do little to stop the North launching the Kwangmyongsong-3 sometime between April 12 and 16, a South Korean government official said Monday.

The official’s comment came as Charles King Mallory, the executive director of the Aspen Institute think tank in Berlin, said Sunday that the informal so-called “track 2” dialogue took place over the weekend.

“The informal talks in Berlin were almost negligible because none of the U.S. delegates were from the government,” the South Korean official said on condition of anonymity.

“The meeting had been scheduled, even before the Feb. 29 agreement (between the U.S. and the North), and can barely stop the North’s planned rocket launch, although we will exert full efforts to stop it,” he said.

Calling the North’s rocket launch plan “a grave issue,” Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik canceled his planned visit to Japan this week, according to the ministry.

While North Korea says the rocket launch is for peaceful purposes, the U.S. and its allies regard it as a pretext to test long-range missile technology, which would violate U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Yang Moo-jin, a North Korean expert at the University of North Korean Studies, said the Berlin meeting was not a round of negotiations but an opportunity for both sides to gauge the strength of each other’s claim.

“It is highly likely that the North will go ahead with its plan, which will result in a U.N. Security Council meeting and new sanctions on the North,” Yang said.

International moves to pressure Pyongyang to give up on its plan spread to other regions of the globe.

Leaders of the Southeast Asian nations raised concerns over the North’s rocket launch issue at a summit on Monday.

Foreign ministers of ASEAN took up the issue on Sunday in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where they prepared for an ASEAN summit, said ASEAN chief Surin Pitsuwan.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said earlier his country had filed a diplomatic protest over the launch to Pyongyang representatives at the U.N., in China, and in fellow ASEAN member states.

Meanwhile, AP reported that Pyongyang’s preparations for a rocket launch were going as scheduled, as indicated by new satellite imagery.

Quoting an analysis by the U.S.-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, the news agency said “the images show a mobile radar trailer, essential for a launch, and rows of what appear to be empty fuel and oxidizer tanks.”

By Kim Yoon-mi (