Asean may issue statement on N. Korea rocket

Leaders of Southeast Asian countries may release a statement during the Asean summit this week highlighting concerns about North Korea's planned rocket launch, news reports said Tuesday.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations kicked off the summit Tuesday and is likely to call on states to refrain from escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula, a government official was quoted by Yonhap News as saying.

"What we want is to secure peace and security on the Korean Peninsula. At the summit, there will be a statement warning of any actions that can escalate the tension on the peninsula," the official said.

Despite a series of international condemnations that a rocket launch would violate UN Security Council resolutions, North Korea has repeatedly said it will put a satellite into orbit on a rocket sometime between April 12 and 16 in celebration of the 100th year since the birth of late founder Kim Il-sung.

Asean Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan reportedly said foreign ministers of the region expressed "very serious concern" over the rocket launch issue.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario also raised "grave concern," while Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said a rocket launch by the North would damage chances for a resumption of the six-party nuclear talks.

Cambodia's Foreign Minister Hor Namhong will suggest the six-party nations discuss North Korean nuclear issues at the Asean Regional Forum in Cambodia in July, news reports said.

The rocket launch has become a key agenda item at the Asean summit, although its main focus is on integrating the group's 600 million people and 10 member nations into an EU-like community by 2015.

Meanwhile, the United States and Japan on Monday discussed counter-measures in case North Korea goes ahead with its rocket launch plan, senior Japanese diplomat Shinsuke Sugiyama said after talks in Washington with his US counterpart Kurt Campbell and Glyn Davies, the coordinator of US policy on North Korea.

"We are urging (North Korea) not to do what they announced," Sugiyama, the top Japanese diplomat for Asian affairs, was quoted by AFP as saying.

"Of course, I don't think I'll try to deny that we are discussing the contingency measures, which means ... trying to make measures if the launch is going to materialize," he said.

Japan has rejected an invitation from the North to send observers from Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency to the planned rocket launch, Japanese government spokesman Osamu Fujimura said.

The US and its allies deem the North's plan as a cover to test a long-range missile. Washington warned Pyongyang that a rocket launch would breach their bilateral Feb. 29 agreement, putting on hold 240,000 tons of nutritional assistance.

Japan also made it clear that it will intercept a North Korean rocket if it threatens Japan's territory.

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