NORTH KOREA MISSILE FIRING
North Korea warns of more tests
|||Inouye says N. Korea wants respect|
By Kwang-Tae Kim
By Kwang-Tae Kim
SEOUL, South Korea — A defiant North Korea today threatened to test-fire more missiles and warned of even stronger action if opponents of the tests put pressure on the country, amid signs of further activity at the reclusive regime's launch sites.
The further show of bravado by Pyongyang came amid intense diplomatic jockeying by the United States and its allies yesterday to prod the U.N. Security Council to take stern action against the North's seven missile tests.
The North Korean Foreign Ministry, in a statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency, insisted that the communist state had the right to test missiles and argued the weapons were needed for defense.
"The successful missile launches were part of our military's regular military drills to strengthen self-defense," the statement said. "As a sovereign country, this is our legal right and we are not bound by any international law or bilateral or multilateral agreements."
The statement did not mention the apparent failure of the most advanced missile fired on Tuesday, the long-range Taepodong-2, which security officials say aborted less than a minute after takeoff.
The ministry also appeared to confirm mounting fears in South Korea that the North was preparing for further launches. South Korean officials said intelligence showed continued activity at Northern missile sites, though at least one official said another launch was not imminent.
Pyongyang vowed to retaliate against efforts to interfere with the launches, but it did not specify what it would do.
"Our military will continue with missile launch drills in the future as part of efforts to strengthen self-defense deterrent. If anyone intends to dispute or add pressure about this, we will have to take stronger physical actions in other forms," the statement said.
At the United Nations, splits emerged among the critics of the North's testing program. China, the North's closest ally, and Russia, which has been trying to re-establish Soviet-era ties with Pyongyang, said only diplomacy could halt North Korea's nuclear and rocket development programs.
Japan, within range of North Korean missiles, circulated a U.N. Security Council resolution yesterday that would ban any country from transferring funds, material and technology that could be used in North Korea's missile and weapons of mass destruction programs.
China and Russia countered that they favor a weaker council statement without any threat of sanctions. Both countries hold veto power on the council.
Council experts were to meet again this morning, and council ambassadors may then meet in the afternoon to review progress, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the session was closed.
In a bid to coordinate strategy, President Bush held separate telephone talks this morning with the leaders of Japan and South Korea to consult on the North, but with differing results.
Japanese officials said Tokyo and Washington agreed to push for sanctions against Pyongyang, while South Korean officials said they agreed only to cooperate in diplomacy, with no mention of punishing North Korea.
Chief U.S. nuclear negotiator Christopher Hill was to head to the region this week. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also planned to visit South Korea in late July for talks on North Korea, South Korea's Foreign Ministry said.
In addition, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei will travel to North Korea next week to urge a return to the stalled six-party nuclear disarmament talks, the ministry said.
The report also said that Wu had proposed bilateral U.S.-North Korean talks, and said the missile launches were probably in reaction to a U.S. crackdown on alleged North Korean counterfeiting, money-laundering and other wrongdoing.
The missiles, all of which apparently fell harmlessly into the sea, provoked international condemnation, the convening of an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council and calls in Japan for economic sanctions. Japan's ruling party was set to give rapid consideration to a bill to impose the sanctions, but the measure would not be implemented until a fall session of parliament.
MISSILES ON PADS
South Korean media reported today, meanwhile, that North Korea has three or four more missiles on launch pads and ready for firing. The North has also barred people from sailing into some areas off the coast until July 11 in a possible sign of preparations for additional launches, Chosun Ilbo newspaper said.
South Korea's National Intelligence Service "is closely watching the situation by keeping in mind that North Korea could fire a missile after repairing a technical defect," Choi Jun-taek, a senior official at the agency, told the National Assembly, according to agency spokesman Choi Jae-kun. The spokesman, however, said another missile test isn't imminent, adding it will take time for the country to repair the glitches.
The Japanese government also said there were no immediate signs of long-range missile launch.
Despite the rise in tensions, South Korean officials said they had no plans to abandon their strategy of attempting to forge stronger ties with Pyongyang. While Seoul condemned the missile tests, it has also called for "patient dialogue" rather than sanctions in response.
Bush has urged world leaders to stand united in demanding that North Korea give up its nuclear weapons program, saying the communist nation remains a threat even though its long-range missile faltered.
The U.S. administration said North Korea's barrage of seven test missiles further walled off the reclusive nation from the rest of the world.
"One thing we have learned is that the rocket didn't stay up very long and tumbled into the sea, which doesn't, frankly, diminish my desire to solve this problem," Bush said.
Associated Press writers Edith M. Lederer and Nick Wadhams at the United Nations and Hiroko Tabuchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.