North Korea has readied a rocket for a launch from a forested valley in its remote northwest this week that will showcase the reclusive state's ability to fire a missile with the capacity to hit the continental United States.
China's foreign minister said Sunday that his country is troubled by North Korea's plan to launch a long-range rocket and has urged more diplomacy to handle the situation, a measured response to a provocation that has unsettled the region.
Pyongyang says the rocket, to be launched this week, will only carry a weather satellite, but South Korea and the United States say it is a test of a ballistic missile. And although the risk of it veering off course is low, guidance remains its weakest point.
Following trilateral talks in the eastern Chinese city of Ningbo, the foreign ministers of Japan and South Korea both said a launch by North Korea would violate U.N. Security Council resolutions — indicating their belief that the North should face sanctions if it goes through with the plan.
But China, the North's closest ally, instead urged more dialogue and communication.
"The Chinese side is troubled by the developments, and strongly encourages everyone involved on all sides, at high and low levels, to remain calm and reasonable," Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told reporters. "These issues need to be worked out in a diplomatic and peaceful manner."
Japan's Kyodo News service reported that Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said the three sides failed to reach a consensus on the launch, an apparent reference to China's softer approach.
North Korea announced plans to launch the satellite-bearing rocket to coincide with the 100th birthday celebrations of its founder, Kim Il-sung, a move that will help cement the prestige of his grandson Kim Jong-un, who took power in December.
In a rare move, reporters were taken to the new Sohae launch station, close to the border with China, where work was in progress to ready the 30-metre high Unha-3 rocket and its satellite.
The three-stage rocket was on the launch platform, indicating the launch will go ahead on plan between April 12-16.
Supreme Commander Kim Jong-un made a very bold decision that is why you are allowed to be this close to the launch site, site director Jang Myong Jin told visiting foreign journalists on Sunday.