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North Korea Fires Short-Range Missile 29 May, Warns of Action


AFP
05/29/2009

North Korea fired another short-range missile on Friday and threatened fresh steps if world
powers impose sanctions for its nuclear test, amid signs it may be readying a new long-range
launch.

The United States said it was sending its North Korea envoy to the jittery region, where Chinese
fishing boats were fleeing a sensitive part of the Yellow Sea in fear of potential naval clashes.

The communist North, which has warned it could launch an attack on the South, vowed to
respond to any fresh sanctions imposed by the United Nations.

"If the UN Security Council provokes us, our additional self-defense measures will be
inevitable," the North's foreign ministry said in a statement carried by official media.

"The world will soon witness how our army and people stand up against oppression and
despotism by the UNSC and uphold their dignity and independence."

Tensions have been running high since Kim Jong-Il's regime said it tested a nuclear bomb on
Monday for the second time and renounced the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953.

North Korea test-fired another missile off its east coast Friday, the sixth this week, according to
South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

There was no immediate confirmation but the agency's reports of five launches earlier this week
were later confirmed by Pyongyang.

In Washington, two US defense officials said that satellite photos suggest North Korea
may now be preparing to launch a long-range ballistic missile.

Vehicle movements at two missile sites resemble work done before North Korea fired a long-
range rocket last month, the officials told AFP on condition of anonymity.

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One of the sites is in the east of the country and the other is in the west, the officials added,
without giving further details.

With US and South Korean troops on high alert, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates was due
to consult his counterparts from South Korea and Japan on Saturday at a regional conference in
Singapore.

Stephen Bosworth, the US special envoy on North Korea, and Deputy Secretary of State James
Steinberg will head Sunday to Tokyo and later visit China, South Korea and Russia, the State
Department said.

The countries were part of six-nation talks that agreed in 2007 to provide aid and security
guarantees to North Korea in return for denuclearization.

Pyongyang stormed out of the accord last month in protest after the UN Security Council
unanimously condemned its long-range missile launch.

The Council has been discussing a potential resolution -- stronger than last month's statement --
to condemn the North's nuclear test. But it was not yet clear if that would include new sanctions.

Gates, en route to Singapore, accused the North of "very provocative, aggressive" actions. But
he also tried to calm nerves, stressing the United States was not planning any military action.

Gates said he was unaware of any unusual troop movements in the North, which has around
1.1 million soldiers, compared with 680,000 South Korean and 28,500 US troops south of the
border.

"I don't think there is a need for us to reinforce our military presence in the South.
Should the North Koreans do something extremely provocative militarily, then we have the
forces to deal with it," he added.

The North may take further steps following its latest verbal statement, which aims to send a
"strong warning" to the Security Council, said Professor Yang Moo-Jin at Seoul's University of
North Korean Studies.

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"The North may put its military on a war footing, test-fire a long-range missile and restart the
plutonium reprocessing facilities at Yongbyon," he told AFP.

The North could also stage a third nuclear test but this would come much later than the other
steps, Yang said.

In a possible sign of trouble ahead, Chinese fishing boats were leaving the tense border area in
the Yellow Sea where the two Koreas fought deadly naval clashes in 1999 and 2002, South
Korea's defence ministry said.

"A s this could be a signal foreboding a possible provocation by the North, we are watching the
situation closely," ministry spokesman Won Tae-Jae said.

Pyongyang warned Wednesday it could not guarantee the safety of US or South Korean ships
after Seoul said it was joining a US-led international effort to stop the trade in weapons of mass
destruction.

But some experts question North Korea's military capabilities. A US official in Washington said
on condition of anonymity that initial US radioactivity tests had not yet confirmed Pyongyang's
nuclear test.

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