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Japan Doubts North Korean Missile Test Imminent

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Jun 16, 2006
Japan on Thursday downplayed the possibility of an imminent missile test by North Korea after its ally the United States warned of a response if Pyongyang carries out a long-range launch. "We are not in an extremely serious situation," Foreign Minister Taro Aso said when asked about the string of the reports that North Korea is planning to test-fire an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Defense Agency chief Fukushiro Nukaga told a separate news conference: "Our battleships and airplanes are regularly monitoring the situation and will continue to do so."

South Korea, which has been reconciling with its estranged northern neighbor, warned Wednesday that a missile test would set back deadlocked efforts to resolve the Korean nuclear crisis.

US Ambassador to Seoul Alexander Vershbow warned of an "appropriate" response if Pyongyang goes ahead with a test.

North Korea declared last year that it had nuclear weapons and has been boycotting six-nation talks on the standoff since November in protest of US financial sanctions.

It would be the first time in eight years that North Korea tested a long-range missile which could one day hit the mainland United States, although Pyongyang has tested shorter range missiles.

In 1998, North Korea fired a missile over Japan into the Pacific Ocean and later called it a satellite launch, leading Japan and the United States to hurry to build a missile defense system.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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