Seoul (AFP) Jun 07, 2007
North Korea on Thursday test-fired two short-range missiles, less than two weeks after its previous launch, the South Korean military said. The communist state fired two missiles into the Yellow Sea, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, a spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff told AFP. They are believed to be ground-to-ship or ship-to-ship missiles with a range of some 100 kilometres (62.5 miles), he said. All landed in North Korean waters.
The spokesman said the launches were among the routine missile tests North Korea carries out every year. "We consider today's launch as part of routine military training, as was the May 25 launch."
The May launching into the Sea of Japan (East Sea) was the first such test in nearly a year. South Korea, Japan and the United States played down its significance, calling it part of normal military exercises.
Japan said the latest tests were unlikely to pose an immediate threat and it had no plans to heighten its alert against North Korea, Jiji Press quoted a defence ministry official as saying.
But the tests come at a sensitive time as US and other negotiators are struggling to settle a banking row which is blocking a start to the North's promised nuclear disarmament.
US National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe criticised the launches, in a comment from a G-8 summit.
"The United States and our allies believe that North Korea should refrain from testing missiles," said Johndroe.
"North Korea should focus on the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and fulfil its obligations under the February 13 agreement. This kind of activity is not constructive."
Under the six-nation February pact, the North agreed to disable its nuclear programmes in return for massive aid and diplomatic benefits.
But it refuses to make a start until it receives 25 million dollars which had been frozen in a Macau bank since 2005 at US instigation.
The US says the funds have been freed but the North has been unable to find a foreign bank willing to make the transfer.
The May 25 launch came on the same day South Korea launched its first Aegis destroyer, which is equipped with advanced defences against air and sea attack.
Analysts said at the time the launch may have been timed to coincide with that event, or might be an expression of frustration at the delay in solving the banking row.
The North's missile launches have heightened tensions in the region in the past decade. In 1998 it sparked alarm in Japan by test-firing a missile over that country.
In July last year it test-fired seven missiles, including its Taepodong-2 that in theory could reach the US west coast. Those launches brought UN condemnation and missile-related sanctions.
In October last year the North heightened alarm worldwide by carrying out its first nuclear test. Analysts say it is not yet thought to have the expertise to miniaturise a nuclear warhead to fit on a missile.
earlier related report
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took the lead in discussions on North Korean issues on the second day of the Group of Eight summit in the German resort of Heiligendamm.
Abe condemned the North for failing to ease international concerns over its nuclear programme, and a dispute over Japanese abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 80s.
"North Korea's nuclear development is intolerable," Abe told the summit, according to a Japanese government official.
"The international community should send a clear message to North Korea," which has yet to meet its promise to close a nuclear reactor suspected of fueling its weapons programme, Abe said.
"The G8 must coordinate and take firm action on the issues," he added.
North Korea on Thursday test-fired two short-range missiles, less than two weeks after its previous launch, the South Korean military said.
The tests come at a sensitive time as the G8 leaders were discussing regional security while negotiators have struggled to settle a banking row which is blocking a start to the North's promised nuclear disarmament.
In an apparent breakthrough accord in February, the impoverished communist state agreed to close its only working reactor at Yongbyon by mid-April in return for massive aid and diplomatic concessions.
But North Korea refuses to act until it recovers 25 million dollars (19 million euros) which have been frozen in a Macau bank since 2005 under US-instigated sanctions.
Japan has taken the hardest line at six-nation nuclear talks and has imposed economic sanctions, saying it will not help North Korea until the emotionally charged kidnapping dispute is resolved.
Source: Agence France-Presse
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US Mulls Lifting Macau Bank Sanctions
Seoul (AFP) June 06, 2007
The United States is proposing a conditional lifting of its sanctions on a Macau bank in the latest attempt to settle a financial dispute blocking North Korea's nuclear disarmament, a report said Wednesday. The North refuses to honour a six-nation February disarmament pact until it receives 25 million dollars which had been frozen in Banco Delta Asia (BDA) since 2005 following the US blacklist.
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