SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea warned on Wednesday of "searing" consequences if North Korea doesn't abandon plans to launch a long-range rocket that critics call a banned test of ballistic missile technology.
The South's rhetoric about unspecified harsh consequences comes less than a month after the North's defiant fourth nuclear test and as diplomats at the U.N. work on strong new sanctions against Pyongyang.
North Korea on Tuesday informed international organizations of its plans to launch an Earth observation satellite on a rocket between Monday and Feb. 25, and if North Korea's past patterns are any clue, angry warnings by its neighbors and Washington probably won't dissuade a coming launch.
The launch declaration, which is meant to warn civilians, shipping and aircraft in the area about the rocket and falling debris, follows North Korea's disputed claim on Jan. 6 to have tested a hydrogen bomb, the country's fourth nuclear test. A launch would be seen as a snub by North Korea of its only major ally, China, whose representative for Korean affairs landed in Pyongyang for talks on Tuesday.
South Korean and U.S. officials said the launch would threaten regional security and violate U.N. Security Council resolutions that ban the country from engaging in any ballistic activities.
"We warn that if North Korea proceeds with a long-range missile launch, the international society will ensure that the North pays searing consequences for it as the launch would constitute a grave threat to the Korean Peninsula, the region and the world," senior South Korean presidential official Cho Tae-yong said in televised remarks.
In Washington, Daniel Russel, the top diplomat for East Asia, said the United States was tracking reports of the North's planned launch.