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Pressure to halt NKorea satellite launch

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By SAPA

Seoul/Moscow -

Russia on Monday became the latest country to apply pressure to North Korea over a long-range rocket launch planned for later this month.

Moscow said the launch would infringe UN resolution 1874, which it said clearly bans the testing of carrier rockets, and called for the restart of six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear programme.

Pyongyang said on Saturday it would launch an observation satellite into space between December 10 and 22. The United States, South Korea and Japan see it as a concealed attempt to test a nuclear missile.

The hermit state's main ally, China, has also pointed to UN resolutions and said it hoped “all parties concerned can act in a way that is more conducive to the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula.”

The first part of a three-stage rocket has already been installed on the launch pad at Sohae on the west coast, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap.

South Korea was also increasing its efforts to find a diplomatic means of dissuading Pyongyang from its plan, Yonhap reported. The country's six-party negotiator, Lim Sung Nam, was discussing the situation with the Chinese, Russian and Japanese ambassadors in Seoul, it said.

Lim was also to travel to the United States for talks on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Japan had begun to deploy missile interceptors in Okinawa, the Kyodo news agency reported. Two military transport ships carrying ground-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3

interceptors were bound for several locations along the island chain, about 1,600 kilometres south-west of Tokyo, it said.

They were set to arrive in a few days.

Japanese Defence Minister Satoshi Morimoto has ordered preparations for the destruction of the rocket if it flies into or above Japanese airspace, the report said.

The ministry is also sending warships to cruise the seas around Okinawa, NHK reported.

North Korea's last attempted launch, in April, failed when the rocket blew up shortly after take-off.

Some observers have said the rocket launch is a possible provocation of South Korea, which has presidential elections on December 19.

But there is also speculation that the launch is set to coincide with the one-year anniversary of the death of former leader Kim Jong Il, on December 17. - Sapa-dpa

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