A planned missile launch by North Korea would be “an unmistakable slap in the face” for those arguing against more sanctions in response to its recent nuclear test, the top U.S. diplomat for East Asia said Tuesday. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel’s comments appeared to be directed at China, the North only major ally. He was speaking after North Korea notified international organizations that it plans to launch an observation satellite into space between Feb. 8 and Feb. 25.

He said a launch that uses ballistic missile technology would be another violation of a U.N. ban and strengthens the argument for the international community to impose “real consequences” on North Korea for destabilizing behavior. The U.S. has been pushing for the imposition of sanctions following its Jan. 6 nuclear test. China, the North’s main trading partner and source of economic assistance, has condemned that test, but is more reluctant to impose sanctions. Beijing has traditionally be concerned that putting the squeeze on its unpredictable neighbor could destabilize it. FULL REPORT