UNITED NATIONS, United States (AFP) - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday urged North Korea to drop plans for a rocket launch that would be in violation of a UN ban on missile technology.
"The secretary-general believes that it is important for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to refrain from using ballistic missile technology and to work for peace and stability on the Korean peninsula," UN spokesman Farhan Haq said.
North Korea has notified three UN agencies that it plans to launch an earth observation satellite as early as Monday, just weeks after its fourth nuclear test.
The announcement drew a strong response from the United States and Japan, while China, Pyongyang's ally, expressed concerns that North Korea was preparing to flout UN rules.
The UN spokesman recalled that UN resolutions barring North Korea from developing missile technology "are of course international law."
Ban on Tuesday met with the director of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in London to discuss the planned rocket launch after it received a notice from North Korea.
A former South Korean foreign minister, Ban was due to raise the issue again in talks at the IMO later Wednesday, said Haq.
The UN Security Council is working on a new sanctions draft resolution to punish North Korea after it carried out a nuclear test on Jan 6, but a US-drafted text has run into resistance from Beijing.
UN diplomats have described the US-drafted resolution as ambitious and strong, but there has been little progress in persuading China to back the measures over the past several weeks.
It remained unclear whether North Korea's latest announcement will nudge China closer to the tougher US stance, diplomats said.
The council has imposed four sets of sanctions on North Korea since it first tested an atomic device in 2006.
There are 20 North Korean entities and 12 individuals on the UN sanctions blacklist, which provides for an assets freeze and a global travel ban.