North Korea Fires More Missiles

Pyongyang ratchets up tensions as the major powers lash out over its nuclear test.

rocket-NK-305.jpg This undated picture, released by the Korean Central News Agency on Jan. 5, 2009, shows a missile firing drill from an undisclosed location in North Korea.

SEOUL—North Korea fired two more short-range missiles off its east coast Tuesday and accused the United States of plotting against it, as the U.S. envoy to the United Nations warned that Pyongyang's reclusive government “will pay a price” for its nuclear and missile tests.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency quoted a government source in Seoul as saying North Korea had test-fired one surface-to-air and one surface-to-ship missile off its east coast. The missiles had a range of about 130 kms (80 miles).

South Korean media also said North Korea—now more isolated than ever—could also launch by Wednesday more short-range missiles, possible toward a disputed sea border with South Korea, government sources were quoted as saying.

North Korea drew unanimous U.N. Security Council condemnation on Monday after it fired off three short-range missiles and conducted a second nuclear test, following an earlier test 2-1/2 years ago.

The Security Council is demanding that North Korea abide by two previous U.N. resolutions that ban it from conducting nuclear tests.

It is also urging the Stalinist government in Pyongyang to return to six-country talks aimed at eliminating its nuclear program.

‘A price’

 U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told CBS News that these were “clearly provocative and destabilizing actions which threaten international peace and security.”

“North Korea needs to understand that its actions have consequences,” she said.

“The pressure will increase on North Korea, economically and otherwise, and North Korea will realize that its actions have only left it further isolated and further debilitated.”

North Korea will “pay a price for their action,” she said.

Rice acknowledged that U.N. Resolution 1718, passed by the Security Council in 2006, lacked strong sanctions enforcement and said that more recently, “we actually put teeth” in a developing resolution to replace that one.

Asked why Pyongyang could be expected to honor any such resolution given its indifference in the past, she said it “is surprisingly in tune to international reaction, and they are trying to test whether they can intimidate the international community.”

U.N. diplomats meanwhile began work on a resolution to punish North Korea, following unanimous condemnation by the U.N. Security Council.

Pyongyang defiant

Through its official media, North Korea sounded defiant.

“Our army and people are fully ready for battle...against any reckless U.S. attempt for a pre-emptive attack,” the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

A North Korean diplomat also told the 65-nation Geneva conference that denunciations of its nuclear test could prevent it from supporting the group’s moves to curb production of nuclear bomb-making material, jeopardizing the start of global talks on the issue.

An Myung Hun said the nuclear test was a “self-defense measure.”

North Korea had recently threatened to conduct a second nuclear test, citing what it called U.S. “hostilities.”

New strains

Tensions between the United States and North Korea, which have no diplomatic relations, have escalated recently.

Two U.S. journalists are scheduled to face trial June 4 in North Korea for alleged illegal entry and “hostile acts.”

Ties were already strained over North Korea’s April 5 launch of a long-range rocket, after which Washington pressed the U.N. Security Council to tighten sanctions on the North.

Pyongyang subsequently expelled United Nations nuclear monitors and threatened to restart a plant that makes weapons-grade plutonium.

Original reporting by RFA’s Korean service. Additional reporting by news agencies. RFA Korean service director: Francis Huh. Edited and produced in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.

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