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North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il (file photo) (epa)
June 17, 2006 -- The United States and Japan have urged North Korea to drop plans for a reported long-range missile launch.
Thomas Schieffer, the U.S. ambassador to Japan, said the test launch would be a "grave and provocative" act. He spoke in Tokyo after meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso.
Earlier, media reports said North Korea was set to test-fire a long-range missile that could reach as far as the U.S. mainland, with the launch expected as early as June 18.
On June 16, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack warned that any missile launch would violate North Korea's 1999 moratorium on long-range missile tests.
"In recent days, we have been consulting with friends and allies in the region and elsewhere. Together, our diplomacy and that of our allies has made clear to North Korea that a missile launch would be a provocative act that is not in their interest and will further isolate them from the world," McCormack said.
North Korea, believed to be developing nuclear weapons, sent shock waves through the region when it first test-fired a ballistic missile over Japan in 1998.