China warns North Korea about rocket test plans

North Korea, a longtime Chinese ally, plans to launch a long-range rocket later this month, raising tensions with the US and South Korea. 

Li Xueren/Xinhua/AP
Chinese President Hu Jintao, (r), greets North Korean envoy Kim Yong Il, head of the international department of the Workers' Party of Korea, during their meeting in Beijing in April. On Sunday, China expressed concern about its longtime ally's plan to launch a long-range rocket later this month.

China expressed concern Sunday over its ally North Korea's plans to launch a long-range rocket in mid-December.

All sides should work for stability and avoid acts that raise tensions, the Foreign Ministry said in a brief statement. It acknowledged North Korea's right to the peaceful use of outer space, but said that had to be harmonized with restrictions including those set by the United Nations Security Council.

"We hope all relevant parties will do that which benefits peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, hope all sides will respond calmly and avoid exacerbating the situation," ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in the statement.

The North Korean launch, set for Dec. 10 to 22, is likely to heighten already strained tensions with Washington and Seoul as South Korea plans to hold a presidential election on Dec. 19 and President Barack Obama prepares to begin his second term.

It would be North Korea's second launch attempt under leader Kim Jong-un, who took power following his father Kim Jong-il's death nearly a year ago. That first launch eight months ago earned North Korea widespread international condemnation, despite ending in an embarrassing misfire.

Some analysts have expressed skepticism that North Korea has corrected whatever caused the first failure. North Korea says the rocket will be mounted with a polar-orbiting Earth observation satellite.

Despite its close ties to North Korea, previous Chinese statements have had little perceptible effect.

China is North Korea's only major political ally and its main source of food and fuel for keeping the North's moribund economy from collapsing. However, Beijing has been highly resistant to using any of its leverage to moderate North Korea's behavior, fearing that could cause an implosion leading to political chaos and a wave of refugees crossing its border.

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