The U.S. Department of Defense on Thursday urged North Korea to quit its plans to launch a missile to orbit a satellite.
“The North Koreans will be violating Security Council resolutions if they move ahead with such a launch and we call on them, as other countries have, not to launch the missile,” George Little, acting assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, said.
“This is very serious business when North Korea does something like this. We're monitoring it closely. We understand the impact it could have on regional stability,” Little said.
“We're working very closely with our Republic of Korea allies as well as our Japanese allies to monitor what's happening with respect to this missile launch. We hope it doesn't happen. But if it does, we'll be ready to track it,” he said.
North Korea is facing mounting international pressure to call off the launch of its long-range rocket planned for April 12-16, which will mark the 100th birthday of the nation's late founding leader Kim Il-Sung. Pyongyang says the rocket will put an earth observation satellite into orbit.
The United States has said the launch would violate a UN Security Council resolution and constitute a missile test. Japan and South Korea have also condemned the launch.
Japan earlier said it will strengthen its defense capabilities in response to the launch and South Korea warned it may shoot down the rocket if it violates its territory.
Under a deal signed in February, Pyongyang agreed to suspend uranium enrichment, as well as nuclear and long-range missile tests in return for U.S. food aid. But North Korean officials insisted the launch is part of a peaceful space program.