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[호주뉴스] North Korea hails missile tests

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  • 2006.07.06
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MARK COLVIN: Crisis? What crisis? That's the gist of North Korea's response to international anxiety after yesterday's battery of missile tests.



North Korea is describing its launch of seven missiles into the Sea of Japan as a success, and saying it had nothing to do with the stalled six-country talks on ending its nuclear program.



The isolated dictatorship says it's not bound by a moratorium to halt its missile testing and it has the right to fire missiles.



On all of this, the international community seems to think differently. The UN Security Council is to consider its response to the tests later tonight, and the Group of Eight industrialised nations, meeting in Russia this month, will also be asked to condemn the action.



But the United States has taken a relatively restrained approach to the tests, and the key US negotiator is heading to the region to discuss a coordinated response.



Our North Asia Correspondent Shane McLeod.



SHANE MCLEOD: It was less than 24 hours after its last missile lobbed into the Sea of Japan that North Korea directly confirmed it had launched the seven missiles.



In a statement broadcast on national television, the military said the successful launch was part of a normal exercise aimed at reinforcing self-defence capabilities.



That was a relatively speedy confirmation from North Korea. In 1998 it took four days for the North to describe the firing of a Taepodong missile over Japan as a satellite launch. This time the North has followed up its confirmation with a warning.



A North Korean diplomat told a Japanese TV station that Pyongyang was ready to take all-out counter measures if sanctions are imposed.



Discussions over a Security Council response will continue at the United Nations tonight in New York, but already the diplomatic offensive is in full operation.



The United States is sending its chief envoy on North Korea, Christopher Hill, to Beijing, Tokyo, Seoul, and Moscow to coordinate a response.



CHRISTOPHER HILL: The issue is not what the Security Council may or may not do, although obviously they're having discussions really as we speak. But the issue is really what we can do together as an international community, in particular what the six parties can do.



And I think what the North Koreans hoped for, if one can kind of find some logic to what they've done, is somehow in firing off these missiles they could say we need a better deal.



Well they're not going to get a better deal through this. In fact what they're going to face is a six-party process that's more united than ever before, and frankly a Security Council discussion which was pretty?which had a lot of unanimity.



SHANE MCLEOD: That unanimity doesn't extend to the idea of sanctions, which Russia and China have both indicated they'll oppose.



The North is manoeuvring to capitalise on all the attention.



China's official news agency has this afternoon quoted a North Korean Foreign Ministry official saying Pyongyang remains committed to removing nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula. It says it still wants to achieve this goal through dialogue and consultation.



One of the stumbling blocks is exactly who is to blame for the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program's having laid dormant since late last year.



North Korea blames the United States, saying restrictions on certain banks dealing with it are the equivalent of financial sanctions. The US says it will only negotiate with North Korea through the six-party mechanism.



South Korea has championed the six-party talks as the way of resolving the standoff. It says it will urge its northern neighbour to return to the talks, but it's also considering whether to follow through on threats to cut off food and agricultural aid.



In Seoul, Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok has been called before a parliamentary committee to explain the Government's current intentions.



(Lee Jong-seok speaking)



"We will manage the current situation of North-South relations in a stable way with clear measures," Mr Lee says. "As I said before, we will consider plans to reserve additional economic assistance to North Korea."



China is also taking a hands-on diplomatic approach. Vice Foreign Minister, Wu Dawei, will visit North Korea next week and says he'll call on Pyongyang to exercise self-restraint and return to the six-party talks.



In the meantime there's growing expectation North Korea has not yet finished with its military hardware. South Korea and the United States both believe more missile tests are imminent.



One report suggests another long-range Taepodong II missile is being prepared.



For its part, North Korea says it's not bound by any agreements to cease missile launches, tests it maintains are its sovereign right.



MARK COLVIN: Shane McLeod.
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