Seoul - The South Korean government warned that it might shoot down a rocket North Korea wants to launch to mark the centennial birthday of Kim Il-sung. North Korea calls the launch part of its peaceful space programme. Meanwhile, 60 world leaders gathered Monday in Seoul to talk about nuclear disarmament on the Korean Peninsula and ways to limit trade in nuclear proliferation.
Earlier this month, the North's Communist regime said it was prepared to shut down its nuclear facilities and invite inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to visit them. In exchange, it would get US and South Korean humanitarian aid, which had been interrupted in 2008 following Pyongyang's military provocations.
For Washington and Tokyo, the latest threat is unacceptable. "We are studying measures such as tracking and shooting down (parts) of a North Korean missile in case they stray out of their normal trajectory," said Yoon Won-shik, a vice spokesman at the Defence Ministry. "We cannot help viewing (the launch) as a very reckless, provocative act" that undermines peace on the Korean peninsula, he added.
According to South Korean intelligence, North Korea has moved the main body of the rocket into a building at a new, more sophisticated site near the village of Tongchang-ri in North Pyongyang province, less than 50 kilometres from the border city of Dandong.
In Seoul for the nuclear summit, US President Obama and his South Korean part Lee called on Pyongyang to stop the launch.