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US Considering Multilateral Response if North Korea Launches Rocket


Secretary of State Clinton says parties to the Chinese-sponsored talks on North Korea are prepared to discuss a joint response, including possible U.N. Security Council action, if North Korea goes ahead with a threatened test of a long-range ballistic missile. Clinton discussed the issue Wednesday with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.

Clinton was not precise about what the joint response might be to what she says would constitute a very provocative act by North Korea.

But she says the other five parties to the Chinese-sponsored talks on North Korea's nuclear program are all outspoken against the prospective missile test, and will discuss a possible response if they are not successful in efforts to persuade Pyongyang from going ahead with it.

The official North Korean media have been saying since last month that the reclusive communist state is preparing to test a satellite launch vehicle, a possible repeat of the long-range missile it fired over Japan in 1998 that fueled regional tensions.

In a press appearance after her meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang, Clinton reiterated the U.S. view that such a test would violate terms of U.N. Security Council resolution 1718 approved after North Korea's 2006 nuclear test.

China has taken a milder stance but Clinton said all participants in the nuclear talks, including China, are concerned about the threatened test.

"Our partners in the six-party Talks are concerned about the missile launch. They are willing to address it if it does happen with us in a variety of ways, including the Security Council," she said. "But I don't want to talk about hypotheticals. We are still working to try to dissuade the North Koreans. But it is important to recognize that the North Koreans entered into obligations regarding denuclearization that we intend to try to hold them to. And that is something we're going to do regardless of what happens with what they may or may not launch in the future."

The six-party talks, which include Russia, Japan and South Korea in addition to the United States, China and North Korea, have been stalled for months over North Korea's refusal to accept a verification plan for the declaration of its nuclear holdings it made last June.

Clinton said she and Foreign Minister Yang, as well as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with whom she met last week, all still believe in the goal of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula, and want the stalled negotiations to resume at the earliest possible moment.

She also said the United States would like to find a way to make North Korea's missile activities part of the negotiating process.

Earlier Wednesday, the State Department again rejected North Korean charges that annual U.S.-South Korean military exercises now underway are part of a plan for a preemptive attack on the north.

Acting State Department Spokesman Robert Wood said the charges are baseless and frankly nonsense, and said the bellicose rhetoric coming out of North Korea is not helpful.

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