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North Korea Test-Fires Seven Missiles

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07/05/2009 12:35 AM
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North Korea Test-Fires Seven Missiles
[link to www.bloomberg.com]

North Korea Test-Fires Seven Missiles, Drawing Condemnation

July 4 (Bloomberg) -- North Korea test fired seven short- range missiles, two days after launching four rockets, spurring condemnations from the U.S., South Korea and Japan.

The launches took place between 8 a.m. and 5:40 p.m. today, from Kitdaeryong in Kangwon province, the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in statements.

“South Korea’s military is fully prepared to deal with any threats and provocations by the North, based on a strong joint defense alliance with the U.S.,” the statements added.

North Korea fired the missiles off its east cost, Yonhap news reported earlier, citing a government official. The missiles are estimated to have a range of as much as 500 kilometers (310 miles), enough for the North to strike most of South Korea, the Korean-language news agency said.

The communist nation fired four short-range missiles on July 2 in defiance of United Nations sanctions imposed after a nuclear test. North Korea has used such launches in the past to counter international condemnation of its nuclear program. The regime fired six short-range missiles in May, after its detonation of a nuclear bomb.

The UN Security Council approved measures on June 12 to curb financial transactions with North Korea and to prevent the country from proliferating weapons of mass destruction after it conducted the nuclear test on May 25. The atomic detonation followed the North’s launch in April of a ballistic missile technically capable of reaching Alaska.

U.S. South Korea, Japan

The U.S. is “closely monitoring” North Korea’s activities, said Karl Duckworth, a State Department spokesman, in a telephone interview today.

“North Korea should refrain from actions that aggravate tensions and instead focus on denuclearization talks and implementation of its commitments” from 2005 to abandon nuclear weapons, Duckworth said.

Japan condemned the North Korean launches, Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said today in a faxed statement.

They violate United Nations Security Council resolutions 1695 and 1718, Kawamura said in the statement. The missiles probably fell into the Sea of Japan, he said.

South Korea also condemned the firings, calling them a “provocative act.” The South Korean government expressed “deep regret” that North continues to escalate tensions in Northeast Asia, the nation’s foreign ministry said in a statement posted on its Web site today.

Warning of Retaliation

The UN resolutions authorize inspections of air or sea cargo suspected of containing material usable in the development of nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles. The U.S. Navy has been tracking a North Korean ship that it suspects may be carrying illicit weapons technology.

North Korea, which conducted its first nuclear test in 2006, has repeatedly warned that any move to seize its ships would be met with military retaliation.

North Korea walked out of international talks to dismantle its nuclear program, kicked UN inspectors out of the country and declared it will continue to develop its nuclear arms, including starting a program for highly enriched uranium.

South Korea’s Foreign Minister Yu Myung Hwan said in a July 2 interview that the government “doesn’t take these short-range missiles as seriously as it would a mid-range missile or a long- range missile.”

The U.S. doesn’t see any indication North Korea is poised to test a long-range ballistic missile capable of landing near the Hawaiian Islands, according to four government officials.
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Re: North Korea Test-Fires Seven Missiles
In N. Korea, Missiles Herald A Defiant 4th
Seven Are Launched on U.S. Holiday

By Blaine Harden and Joby Warrick
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, July 5, 2009

TOKYO, July 4 -- Taunting the United States on its birthday, North Korea fired seven missiles into the Sea of Japan early Saturday in a provocative move that some experts said might have been intended to discourage deployment of new missile defenses against the communist state.

The Independence Day launch was the North's biggest one-day barrage of test missiles in three years. It drew strong criticism from countries in the region, as well as renewed resolve from the Obama administration to punish Pyongyang for its continued defiance of U.N. resolutions.

The seven rockets splashed harmlessly into the sea, and U.S. analysts said all appeared to be short-range ballistic missiles capable of striking targets less than 350 miles away. Some independent experts said the firing of multiple missiles may have been intended as a warning to adversaries that North Korea would seek to overwhelm their missile shields.

"The chief challenge with missile defense is coping with large numbers of missiles, and the firing of seven has a saturation quality to it," said Dennis M. Gormley, a former member of numerous military and intelligence advisory boards and a senior fellow at the Monterey Institute's James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Washington. "It at least raises the specter of these kinds of attacks."

Pyongyang made no comment Saturday about the missiles. But launches had been expected this weekend because North Korea had warned ships to avoid waters near its east coast through July 10.

In Washington, the Obama administration reacted with dismay to the latest in a series of North Korean provocations that included an underground nuclear test on Memorial Day.

"This type of North Korean behavior is not helpful," said State Department spokesman Karl Duckworth. "What North Korea needs to do is fulfill its international obligations and commitments."

A senior administration official predicted the tests will lead to the further isolation of North Korea, which was hit with new U.N. Security Council sanctions last month after its May 25 nuclear test. "It's not going to change anything, and we're going to continue to implement these sanctions in the resolution," said the official, speaking on the condition that he not be identified.

The sanctions have infuriated the government of Kim Jong Il, which responded to them by vowing last month never to give up nuclear weapons and to start making more with enriched uranium.

When challenged, North Korea has a history of rattling its military hardware. It fired four short-range missiles into the sea off its east coast on Thursday, when senior U.S. diplomats were in Beijing trying to persuade the Chinese to be more diligent in enforcing sanctions against the North.

After North Korea's warning to local shipping traffic, there had been speculation that it might attempt a longer-range missile test, possibly firing one of its 4,000-mile-range Taepodong-2 missiles in the direction of Hawaii. But U.S. analysts said Saturday there are no indications that such a launch is imminent.

Such an act would have been far more provocative, said David Albright, a former U.N. weapons inspector and president of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington. "In that sense, at least, today's launch could have been far worse," he said.

North Korea's neighbors sharply condemned the new launches. South Korea's foreign ministry called them a "provocative act" that violates several Security Council resolutions banning North Korea from all ballistic missile activity. The South Korean military said it is "fully ready to counter any North Korean threats and provocations based on strong South Korea-U.S. combined defense posture." The U.S. military has about 28,500 troops in South Korea.

Military officials in both countries told reporters that the North Korean missiles appeared to variants of the Scud, a Soviet-era weapon with a range of about 300 miles.

Government officials quoted in Japanese and South Korean news accounts said the missiles may have been Nodongs, a modified, longer-range Scud. North Korea has more than 200 of these missiles, which are capable of striking nearly all of Japan. The Japanese government considers them a serious threat, and it spent hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years buying two U.S.-made antimissile defense systems.

North Korea's recent belligerence, in the view of many analysts, is related to a succession underway in Pyongyang. Kim is 67 years old and has appeared frail since suffering a stroke last summer.