N Korea plans new rocket launch as leader asserts power

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea said it would carry out its second rocket launch of 2012 as its youthful leader Kim Jong-un flexes his muscles a year after his father’s death, in a move that South Korea and the United States swiftly condemned as a provocation.

North Korea’s state news agency announced the decision to launch another space satellite yesterday, just a day after Kim met a senior delegation from China’s Communist Party in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang.

China, under new leadership, is North Korea’s only major political backer and has continually urged peace on the Korean peninsula, where the North and South remain technically at war after an armistice, rather than a peace treaty, ended the 1950-53 conflict.

No comment on the planned launch was available from Beijing’s foreign ministry.

In Washington, US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland condemned the launch plan as a provocative threat to the Asia-Pacific region that would violate United Nations resolutions imposed on Pyongyang after past missile tests.

“A North Korean ‘satellite’ launch would be a highly provocative act that threatens peace and security in the region,” she said in a written statement.

Pentagon spokesman George Little said , “ North Korea must abide by its international obligations under UN Security Council resolutions that clearly articulate what it can and cannot do with respect to missile technologies.”

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