US warns North Korea

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WASHINGTON (AFP) -The United States urged North Korea on Saturday to scrap plans to launch a rocket later this month, warning the “highly provocative” move would destabilize the region.

“Devoting scarce resources to the development of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles will only further isolate and impoverish North Korea,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement.

Her comments came after Pyongyang announced it would conduct between December 10 and 22 its second long-range rocket launch this year following a much-hyped but failed attempt in April.

As in April, the North said it would be a purely “peaceful, scientific” mission aimed at placing a polar-orbiting earth observation satellite into orbit.

The announcement was certain to ratchet up tensions with South Korea, which is just days from a presidential election.

The US and its allies insist the launches are disguised tests for an inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

As such, they would contravene UN resolutions triggered by Pyongyang’s two nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

“A North Korean ‘satellite’ launch would be a highly provocative act that threatens peace and security in the region,” Nuland said.

“We call on North Korea to comply fully with its obligations under all relevant UNSCRs,” she added, referring to UN Security Council resolutions.

Washington and its allies say the North’s Unha-3 rocket is actually a three-stage variant of the Taepodong-2 ICBM that Pyongyang has been developing for years but has never tested successfully.

“The path to security for North Korea lies in investing in its people and abiding by its commitments and international obligations,” Nuland added.

She said Washington was “consulting closely” with its allies on a response.

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