A UN command spokesman said further details about Monday's meeting would be released after it had ended.

North Korea says the rocket launch is a space mission aimed at putting an experimental satellite into orbit.

But South Korean officials have warned that the North risks further sanctions and international isolation if it goes ahead with the launch.

Cooperation

"I would like to request North Korea to exercise self-restraint, not to escalate tension or anxiety in the region"

Hirofumi Nakasone, Japan foreign minister

Over the weekend Lee Myung-bak, the South Korean president, said the North's best options for its future security were through cooperation with the South and the international community, not by developing nuclear weapons and missiles.

"Denuclearisation is a short-cut for North Korea that allows it to grow into a member of the international community," he said in a speech to mark an uprising against the 1910-1945 Japanese colonial occupation of the Korean peninsula.

His comments came after Hirofumi Nakasone, the Japanese foreign minister, urged the North to exercise "self-restraint" saying any form of launch would violate the existing UN Security Council resolution.

"I would like to request North Korea to exercise self-restraint, not to escalate tension or anxiety in the region," Kasuo Kodama, a spokesman, said, citing the minister following talks in Beijing.

Military drills

Pyongyang has said US-South Korea military exercises are a pre-text for war [EPA]
North Korea meanwhile has kept up a steady stream of warnings and threats, calling on the US and South Korea to abandon joint military exercises planned to begin next week.

"This is nothing but reckless provocative acts of pushing the tense situation on the Korean peninsula closer to the outbreak of a nuclear war," it said.

The annual joint military drills have been held without major incident for years, but the North regularly denounces them as a preparation for invasion and nuclear war.

On Saturday the North Korean army, in an open letter to South Korea's military, accused US forces of "behaving arrogantly" inside the four-kilometer-wide demilitarised zone which divides the peninsula.

Since the 1950-53 Korean War in which a US-led United Nations force fought to defend South Korea, the UN command has remained officially in place to help deter a possible North Korean invasion.

The US has 28,500 troops stationed in the country to back up the South's 680,000-strong military against North Korea's 1.1 million-member armed forces.