07/06/2006, 00.00
NORTH KOREA – SOUTH KOREA

North Korea ready to launch new missiles

This was announced by the Foreign Affairs Minister of Pyongyang. The South Korean Defence Minister said there were about three or four short and medium-range missiles. The UN Security Council is divided: it had not yet adopted a shared approach to tackling the crisis. Protest rallies were held in Tokyo and Seoul.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – North Korea still has three or four missiles prepared for launching and a Foreign Affairs statement said the country is ready for further military tests. The statement from Pyongyang confirmed yesterday's claims by Yoon Kwang-ung, the South Korean Defence Minister.

According to the international press, the new missiles are of short and medium range and their launch has been announced by North Korea. "Our armed forces will go ahead with the missile test launches," said the Foreign Affairs statement. The North Korean government has already banned navigation alongside some of its coastal areas on 11 July.

During the night between 4 and 5 July, Pyongyang carried out seven missile tests and, although these did not leave any damage in their wake, they provoked a wave of protests from the international community. The launches were carried out despite threats from the United States and Japan, but they also ignored calls from China and Russia, traditional allies of the Communist regime.

The issue – currently being debated at the United Nations Security Council – may be resolved at the negotiating table of the six-party talks for nuclear disarmament, which Pyongyang dropped out of months ago. Another option may be a private meeting between the United States and North Korea, which Washington is disinclined to go for.

The US President, George W. Bush, after defining the launch of seven missiles as "a provocation to the international community", said such recourse to arms "did not lessen America's desire to resolve the problem, not through direct and bilateral contacts with North Korea but at the six-party talks: there, the North Korean government could come together with the community of Nations and prove it wants to create a positive future for its people. It is a choice they must make."

However the hoped-for meeting of the UN does not appear to be close at hand: Beijing and Moscow have declared themselves against "immediate and hard sanctions" called for by the United States and Japan, and they are prepared to present a proposal of a "three-way diplomatic channel" in a bid to calm the waters.

Meanwhile, violent protest rallies against Pyongyang took place yesterday in the streets of Tokyo and Seoul.

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