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North Korea Threatens to Shoot Down Spy Planes

North Korea is warning it will shoot down any U.S. planes coming close to the site of its imminent rocket launch. With liftoff potentially just days away, South Korean officials say there will absolutely be some form of response to the launch.

North Korea is warning the United States not to send surveillance planes too close to the site of a planned long-range rocket launch.

In an announcement on state-run radio, North Korea warned what it calls, "the U.S. imperialist racketeers", that its forces will "shoot them down" if they engage in aerial espionage.

The announcement described the imminent rocket mission as a "satellite launch for peaceful purposes."

North Korea informed international agencies it would send a satellite into space sometime between April 4 and 8. That means the long-range rocket, which international satellites have spotted on a North Korean launch pad, could fire its engines as early as Saturday.

South Korea, Japan, and the United States say the launch will be a provocative attempt to advance North Korea's ability to deliver warheads, via ballistic missiles. They and the European Union say it will violate a U.N. resolution imposed after North Korea conducted at 2006 nuclear weapons test.

Wi Sung-lac is South Korea's chief delegate to international talks aimed at getting rid of North Korea's nuclear weapons. Returning to Seoul from consultations in Washington, he said the launch will have consequences.

He says this is a launch that the international community has been trying to stop. He says, if it goes forward, a response by the international community will clearly be inevitable.

North Korea has warned it will pull out of nuclear disarmament talks, if international sanctions are imposed because of the launch. It has threatened war if Japan follows through on its vow to shoot down the rocket if it appears to threaten Japanese territory.

Pyongyang maintains it has a right to peaceful space exploration. South Korea's Wi says even a satellite launch is troubling, in the tense context of the North's weapons programs.

He says what South Korea and its allies have a problem with is the North's ability to deliver weapons of mass destruction at a long range, regardless of what is mounted on top of this particular rocket.

The North Korean rocket expected to launch this weekend is theoretically capable of reaching the western United States.