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S. Korea, China discuss measures against N. Korea's rocket plan: FM

South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan said Thursday that his government has been in consultations with China over possible actions to take if North Korea launches a long-range rocket this month.

Asked by a lawmaker at a parliamentary session whether Seoul discussed possible sanctions with Beijing against the North's planned rocket launch, Kim replied, "Consultations are under way."

Kim said that South Korea and China "have been in consultations over contents in case of North Korea's launch, but no consensus has been reached yet."

North Korea plans to carry out the launch between Monday and Dec. 22 to put what it calls a "working satellite" into orbit, a move condemned by Seoul, Washington and others as veiled tests of banned ballistic missile technology.

South Korea has warned it will take North Korea to the U.N. Security Council and press for new sanctions if the rocket launch proceeds, though it is unclear whether China, the only major ally of the North, would agree to further sanctions.

There have been questions about the effectiveness of any additional sanctions on North Korea, a country that has been under a string of sanctions for decades. Widespread views are that new sanctions would be aimed at identifying and freezing secret North Korean bank accounts overseas.

At the parliamentary session, the Unification Ministry in charge of North Korean affairs said it will "prudently adjust"

inter-Korean economic exchanges and cooperation if North Korea launches a rocket.

"North Korea's missile launch is a direct and serious security threat to us and we will sternly deal with it" if North Korea pushes ahead with the planned launch, the ministry said in a report to the National Assembly session.

"In consideration of the grave security situation, the government will prudently adjust inter-Korean exchanges and make assurances for the safety of our people at the Kaesong Industrial Complex," the ministry said.

If North Korea fires the rocket in defiance of a U.N. ban, it will likely cast a shadow over the inter-Korean industrial complex just across the border, where more than 50,000 North Koreans work at 123 South Korean firms.

"If North Korea proceeds with the missile launch, the government will take all possible restrictive measures along with the international community," the ministry said.

Seoul officials said that North Korea has assembled all three stages of the rocket on its launch pad, the latest sign that preparations to fire off the rocket are in full swing.

The planned launch would be the North's second launch attempt under young leader Kim Jong-un, following a failed launch in April.

Kim took power nearly a year ago following the death of his father Kim Jong-il.

Meanwhile, Japan's Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported, citing an unnamed source in Beijing, that North Korea is likely to launch the rocket on Dec. 17, to mark the first anniversary of the death of Kim Jong-il.

"North Korea is scheduled to launch the rocket between 7:00 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. on Dec. 17," the source was quoted in the newspaper as saying. (Yonhap News)


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