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US Defence Secretary Robert Gates says North Korea is likely to launch a rocket soon, and Washington would not attempt to stop it.
North Korea has said it will launch a satellite into orbit next month.
South Korea, Japan and the US say the launch is cover for a test of the Taepodong-2 ballistic missile.
Japan had said earlier it would deploy missile interceptors to destroy any parts of a North Korean rocket that might fall on its territory.
it would regard any rocket intercept as an act of war.