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U.S. discussing next steps on N. Korea: State Dept.

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The United States is talking with its allies and others about what to do if North Korea launches a long-range rocket in mid-April in defiance of repeated warnings, an official said Friday.

Mark Toner, deputy spokesman for the State Department, said it is a matter of mutual trust, especially after a Feb. 29 deal between Washington and Pyongyang on nascent confidence-building measures.

"This launch, if it goes forward, would call into question the credibility of all North Korea's commitments," he said at a press briefing.
Under the so-called leap year accord, the communist nation agreed to a moratorium on nuclear testing and long-range missile launches in return for the delivery of 240,000 tons of food assistance.

Two weeks later, however, the North caught the U.S. off guard by announcing that it would send a satellite into orbit between April 12 and 14, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the birth of national founder Kim Il-sung. It cited a sovereign right to explore outer space, but the U.S. views it as a guise for the test of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

The North is prohibited from using ballistic missile technology under U.N. Security Council resolutions.
"We continue to consult with our allies and partners within the six-party process about next steps," Toner said in reference to the stalled nuclear talks, also involving South Korea, China, Russia and Japan. He did not specify what measures are being considered.
"We've been so vocal about asking or telling North Korea that this planned missile launch is a mistake, that they should back away from it, and that it's jeopardizing the leap year agreement," he added.

He said it's Japan's call to decide whether to make good on its threat to intercept the rocket.
Japan's defense minister earlier ordered missile units to intercept the North's rocket if it or its debris is believed to threaten Japan.
Meanwhile, Toner said he is unaware of any diplomatic contact between the U.S. and the North since the announcement on the launch plan.

by: PNA/Yonhap




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