N Korea May Have
Tested Missile This Week


TOKYO (AFP) - North Korea may have tested a short-range missile this week just before six-party talks aimed at defusing the crisis over Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions, a report here said Saturday.
The United States told Tokyo the missile was fired towards the Sea of Japan around Tuesday from the east coast around Tanchon, in South Hamgyong Province, Kyodo news agency reported, quoting sources familiar with Japan-US ties.
The missile may have been a land-to-ship Silkworm missile or ballistic missile "smaller than a Scud", the US Defense Department reportedly told its Japanese counterparts.
The United States probably obtained the information from its satellite and missile observation system, although the Japanese government could not confirm that the missile had been launched, the sources told Kyodo.
But it was not clear if the reported test was meant as a warning message over the third round of talks taking place in Beijing, or whether it was unrelated to the talks and simply part of Pyongyang's ongoing missile program.
The US also warned a second missile may be launched, the sources added, but did not say how they had gained the information or how far the missile reportedly tested this week had flown.
Earlier Friday, the United States played down North Korean comments that elements in Pyongyang wanted to test a nuclear bomb, as the third and penultimate day of the talks in Beijing ended with no breakthrough.
Negotiations were delayed for more than two hours after North Korea and its closest ally China held an emergency meeting following the nuclear test threat.
The US has put forward a plan at the talks, which started Wednesday, that calls for a step-by-step dismantling of North Korea's plutonium and uranium weapons programs in return for aid and security guarantees and easing of its political and economic isolation.
A Japanese government source pointed out that this week's test launch would not have posed a security threat as the missile is estimated to have travelled only 100 to 200 kilometers, Kyodo said.
The US Department of Defense has said North Korea test launched land-to-ship missiles at least six times between February and October last year, the report added.



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