UN to act swiftly to N. Korea launch: Sources

If North Korea goes ahead with its planned rocket launch between April 12 and 16, the UN Security Council is to immediately convene and discuss the issue, sources said Tuesday.

North Korean officials told reporters in Pyongyang Tuesday that they have completed preparations to put the Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite into orbit by launching the Unha-3 rocket in Dongchang-ri, located in the northwest part of the Korean Peninsula. However, the US and its allies say it is a pretext to test a long-range missile.

When Pyongyang launched long-range missiles prior to nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009 the UN Security Council convened immediately.

This month, the chair of the UN Security Council is the US, which makes it more likely that the meeting will be held right away.

While permanent council member states the US, the UK, France and Russia have made their stance clear that the North's rocket launch would violate the UN Security Council Resolution 1874, the other permanent member, China, has not officially announced its position and only expressed "deep concerns."

If the UN Security Council is to adopt a new resolution condemning the North, it needs more than nine votes out of the 15 member states, without any veto from the five permanent member states.

South Korea's Unification Ministry spokesperson Kim Hyung-suk urged the North again on Tuesday to stop the rocket launch plan.

"It is deplorable that the North's provocative act would force North Korean people's sacrifice and self-inflict isolation and sanctions from the international community," Kim said in a statement.

"We call on North Korea to respond to the calls of the international community by halting the launch of a missile and urgently addressing the livelihood of its people."

South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin and his US counterpart Leon Panetta talked over the phone on Tuesday morning, Seoul time, to discuss coordinated responses to the North Korea's imminent rocket launch, government officials said.

"The two ministers reaffirmed that the North's rocket launch is a provocative act and violates obligations to the international community and the UN Security Council resolutions," an official at the South Korean Defense Ministry said.

"The two ministers reconfirmed that they will closely monitor the North's activities and make joint efforts to defend the Korean Peninsula."

The bilateral talk is the fourth of its kind since Panetta took office.

When North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's death was announced in December, the two had phone consultations twice.

The comments came right after Washington took direct aim at Pyongyang's new leadership, saying it seems to lack a desire to end its diplomatic isolation.

"Because we judge North Korea by its actions, in each case this would be an indication of North Korea's decision at the leadership level not to take the steps that are necessary to allow North Korea to end its isolation, to rejoin the community of nations and to do something about the extreme poverty and deprivation its people suffer," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said at a press briefing in Washington.

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