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Page last updated at 14:48 GMT, Monday, 30 March 2009 15:48 UK

S Korea worries over North's plan

Satellite image of the North Korean launch pad (11/03/2009)
North Korea has said it will launch a satellite into orbit next month

South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak has said North Korea's plan to launch a satellite is "a very serious concern".

In an interview with the Financial Times newspaper, he said the launch could help the communist state acquire technology to deliver nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, the US deployed two destroyers capable of tracking and intercepting missiles from South Korea.

North Korea says it will fire a rocket to launch a satellite for peaceful purposes between 4-8 April.

The United States, Japan and South Korea say the North will in fact use the launch to test its Taepodong-2 missile.

The US has said it has no plans to shoot down the North's launch, although Japan has positioned interceptors ready for action if any part of the rocket falls over Japanese territory.

Southern fears

Mr Lee said everyone was agreed that it was "not in anyone's interest to test-fire a missile, or whatever it is".

If the North had no nuclear programme, its stated plan would cause no qualms, he said.

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"But the truth of the matter is North Korea does have a desire to develop nuclear weapons, so this does precisely make it a very serious concern for them to acquire the technology to deliver nuclear weapons," he told the newspaper.

Mr Lee declined to say whether he supports Japan's preparations to shoot down the rocket should it start falling towards Japanese territory, but said he opposes a military response in general to any launch.

"What I do oppose is to militarily respond to these kind of actions," he said.

A US spokesman said two destroyers were sent out from the South Korean port of Busan, without elaborating.

Local media said the ships would monitor the launch, after US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said American forces would not attempt to shoot it down.

"I would say we're not prepared to do anything about it," Mr Gates told Fox News Sunday.

"If we had an aberrant missile, one that looked like it was headed for Hawaii, we might consider it, but I don't think we have any plans to do anything like that at this point," he said.

'Trust gone'

In the newspaper interview, Mr Lee defended his rollback of the South's "sunshine" policy which had offered unconditional aid to the North.

He acknowledged "some positive outcomes" from the sunshine policy but said the North is still working towards becoming a nuclear weapons state.

"So the majority of people's trust in North Korea has gone down considerably," he said.



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