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Nuclear envoys of S. Korea, Japan discuss N. Korea's planned rocket launch

All Headlines 11:41 March 23, 2012

SEOUL, March 23 (Yonhap) -- The top nuclear envoys of South Korea and Japan held talks in Seoul and discussed possible steps to take following North Korea's announcement of a planned rocket launch, a Seoul official said Friday.

The meeting between Lim Sung-nam and his Japanese counterpart, Shinsuke Sugiyama, marked the first face-to-face talks between senior diplomats from the two nations since North Korea announced its plan to launch a long-range rocket in mid-April to put a satellite into orbit.

South Korea, Japan and their military ally, the United States, have all condemned the planned rocket launch as a maneuver by the North to test-launch a long-range missile. Japan has also hinted it may shoot down the rocket if it violates Japanese airspace.

Lim and Sugiyama "discussed how the two nations would respond if North Korea goes ahead with its plan to launch a satellite using a long-range rocket," the official at Seoul's foreign ministry said, on condition of anonymity.

The talks between Lim and Sugiyama also "reflected the close cooperation between the two nations" in response to the North Korean issue, the official said.

Last week, North Korea announced its plan to launch a satellite atop a long-range rocket sometime between April 12 and 16.

The North's announcement appears to break a Feb. 29 deal with the U.S. that calls on Pyongyang to suspend its uranium enrichment and nuclear and missile tests in return for 240,000 tons of food aid from the U.S.

The announcement and subsequent tension it created is a possible diplomatic gamble from the North for more concessions from the U.S., analysts said. It is seen as the first such move generated by North Korea's new leader Kim Jong-un, who inherited power in December following the death of his father, Kim Jong-il.

The planned launch will mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, North Korea's founder and grandfather of the current leader.


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