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UN Chief Urges North Korea to Reconsider Rocket Launch Plan

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in South Korea, March 24, 2012.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in South Korea, March 24, 2012.
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United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged North Korea to reconsider its announced plan to launch a so-called "application satellite" next month.

Mr. Ban discussed the issue in a meeting with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak Saturday.  He arrived in Seoul earlier in the day to attend the Nuclear Security Summit which begins Monday.

The statement issued by his office says Mr. Ban urged Pyongyang to fully comply with the relevant resolutions of the U.N. Security Council, particularly the resolution which bans "any launch using ballistic missile technology."  He also urged North Korea to reconsider its decision in line with its recent agreement to refrain from long-range missile launches.

North Korea agreed to halt all its nuclear programs and ballistic missile tests in exchange for a shipment of 240,000 metric tons of U.S. food assistance.  The communist country is perpetually on the edge of famine due to spates of drought and famine and poor economic management.

But it later said it would launch an observation satellite on a long-range rocket next month.  The United States and South Korea believe Pyongyang plans to test long-range missiles that could eventually deliver nuclear warheads.

Mr. Ban had warned earlier that the plan threatens regional peace.

The statement also says Mr. Ban shared his concern with the South Korean government about dislocated people from North Korea.  Most North Korean defectors cross the border into China before finding their way to South Korea.  But China often captures and returns the refugees who then face severe punishment by North Korean authorities.

The U.N. chief asked all concerned parties to find a mutually agreeable solution.  He also stressed the importance of respecting international humanitarian standards regarding dislocated people.

Mr. Ban and Mr. Lee also discussed international efforts to end violence in Syria and South Sudan.  He expressed hope that progress will be achieved during the summit of world leaders in Seoul in the coming days.

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