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US Envoy Urges N. Korea to Stop Belligerent Rhetoric

The U.S. special envoy on North Korea has urged Pyongyang to stop its belligerent rhetoric, after the Stalinist country threatened the safety of passenger jets flying near its airspace.

Stephen Bosworth told reporters Saturday upon arrival in South Korea that he did not think the warning was very helpful.

Bosworth also said the North's expected launch of a missile or satellite was "very ill-advised." He said the United States wants dialogue with the North, adding Washington is "reaching out now."

South Korean and other airlines are rerouting flights away from North Korean airspace after Pyongyang said it could not guarantee the safety of South Korean civilian flights near or over its borders while U.S.-South Korean joint military exercises are underway.

Singapore Airlines and Air Canada said Friday they are joining South Korean carriers in avoiding North Korean airspace.

South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak condemned the North's threat to civilian aircraft. Speaking during a visit to Indonesia's capital, Jakarta, Friday, Mr. Lee said the situation on the Korean peninsula requires international attention. He urged North Korea to return to the negotiating table.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid said North Korea's belligerent rhetoric is unwarranted and counterproductive.

North Korea also warned that the exercises, which start Monday, could trigger a war.

Washington and Seoul say the routine drills involving tens of thousands of troops are purely defensive.

The United States, South Korea, China, Russia and Japan are involved in negotiations with North Korea aimed at dismantling the North's nuclear weapons program in exchange for food and energy aid. The last round of talks took place in December in China. It ended in disagreement over a nuclear verification protocol which the North refused to sign.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.