China, North Korea hold 2nd meeting on planned rocket launch: state media

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 19, 2012 11:48 PM
China, North Korea hold 2nd meeting on planned rocket launch: state media

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese and North Korean officials have held their second meeting in five days to discuss the North's planned rocket launch, state media said late on Monday, suggesting Beijing may be increasing pressure on Pyongyang against the launch.

But the isolated regime showed no signs of abandoning its plans for the launch which it says will carry a satellite, but which the United states and others say is the same as a ballistic missile test, which is banned under U.N. resolutions.

On Monday, China's envoy for the Korean nuclear dispute Wu Dawei met with the North's vice foreign minister Ri Yong-ho in Beijing, state television reported.

In a terse statement outside of China's state guesthouse, Wu said he exchanged opinions with Ri on protecting peace and stability on the peninsula and on promoting the process to return to six-party talks.

When asked about the launch he said: "We also had thorough discussions about this issue".

North Korea's Ri, speaking to Chinese media, repeated the North's stance that a satellite launch is part the North's sovereign right to space development, adding it intended to move ahead with the United States on the aid agreement.

"If they apply double standards towards us or try to improperly violate our rights, we have only to respond against it. I hope that such a thing would not happen and we will make efforts until the end not to see that kind of confrontation," he said.

China on Saturday expressed its "worry" and urged North Korea to "stay calm and exercise restraint and avoid escalation", a rare public airing of pressure toward its ally whose plan to launch a long-range rocket is raising tension in the region and could derail a recent aid deal with the United States.

North Korea has for years been trying to build a nuclear arsenal and the launch plan has thrown into doubt hopes that the North's new leader Kim Jong-un would open up more to the international community.

But the U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Monday it had received an invitation from North Korea to visit, three years after its inspectors were expelled from the reclusive Asian state for the second time.

Analysts say a missile test would be in line with North Korea's long practiced diplomacy of using threats to regional security to leverage concessions from the international community, and the United States in particular.

They say it might also be intended by Pyongyang to boost the stature of the North's new young leader, who took over the family dynasty after his father's death late last year.

Washington has said a launch carrying a satellite could violate Pyongyang's agreement last month to stop nuclear tests, uranium enrichment and long-range missile launches - and thereby scuttle U.S. plans to resume food aid.

(Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Ken Wills and Michael Perry)