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China watching for NKorea satellite launch

China said on Tuesday it had taken note of a planned North Korea satellite launch that neighbouring countries believe could be a long-range missile test, but refused to comment further.

world Updated: Feb 24, 2009 14:20 IST

China said on Tuesday it had taken note of a planned North Korea satellite launch that neighbouring countries believe could be a long-range missile test, but refused to comment further.

"China takes note of this matter," foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu told reporters.

"We hope relevant parties can contribute to peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and the rest of the region."

North Korea, a long-time China ally, said on Tuesday preparations were under way for a rocket launch to put a communications satellite into orbit.

Pyongyang has previously tested missiles under the guise of launching a satellite, and analysts have said recent comments from the North indicated it was on the verge of another attention-grabbing test.

The reclusive country is the focus of six-nation talks hosted by China intended to convince it to give up its atomic programmes, but negotiations have repeatedly stalled.

The latest setback to the disarmament talks came last year amid disagreements over how the North's declared nuclear activities should be verified, and no date has been set for the next round.

Nevertheless, Ma said the talks -- which group China, the United States, Japan, Russia, and the two Koreas -- were making progress.

"Thanks to the joint efforts of all parties, this mechanism is moving forward," he said.

"We hope relevant parties can continue to work together to promote this process."