US warns of aviation risk from N.Korea rockets

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States and its allies have lodged concerns with the UN aviation agency over North Korea's rocket launches, fearing they could put civilian airplanes at risk, officials said on Wednesday.

The United States and several other countries charged that the communist state has not properly informed the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) over its recent test-firings of rockets and missiles.

The letter, co-signed by the United States and sent to the ICAO's president, said that North Korea's actions pose a "serious threat", State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

"North Korea's decision to conduct these launches without prior notification threatens the safety of international aviation and demonstrates North Korea's disregard for the rules and regulations of the organization," Ms Psaki told reporters. She said that the letter was sent on July 8. She did not identify the other nations that signed, but media in Seoul said that they included North Korea's neighbours South Korea and Japan. Other signatories were Australia, Britain, Canada, France and Germany, South Korean news reports said, quoting a foreign ministry official.

North Korea is a member of ICAO, the Montreal-based UN agency that works to ensure the safety of international aviation. It accuses the United States of hostility, and has defiantly pursued a nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program. On Sunday, it fired two Scud missiles into the Sea of Japan (East Sea).

Despite the recent concerns, North Korea has said in the past that it informed ICAO and a similar group, the International Maritime Organization, over long-range launches including in December 2012, when it put a rudimentary satellite into orbit.

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