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Russia slams North Korea missile launches

AFP | July 05, 2006

Russia on Wednesday slammed North Korea's test launches of six missiles, saying the move undermined international efforts to ease nuclear tension on the Korean peninsula, Russian news agencies reported.

"The missile launches that were carried out are clearly at odds with efforts to build trust in the region," Interfax news agency quoted Russian foreign ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin as saying.

"And this type of action complicates the situation surrounding the Korean nuclear program." Interfax initially reported Kamynin as using the word "provocation", but it later corrected this to "action."

The Russian reaction came after North Korea test-fired six missiles, including a long-range Taepodong-2 capable of reaching US soil, sparking furious condemnation from neighboring Japan, South Korea and the United States.

The US Northern Command said in a statement from Peterson Air Force Base in the western state of Colorado that Pyongyang had fired six ballistic missiles, all of which landed in the Sea of Japan.

The launches "cause regret that North Korea carried out missile tests in violation of its own moratorium" on such launches, Kamynin was quoted by ITAR-TASS news agency as saying.

He said the North Korean move was detrimental to stability in north Asia.

Another official with special responsibility for Russian diplomacy in Asia, Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Alekseyev, admitted Moscow was not sure why North Korea had test-fired the missiles.

"We think is an ambiguous event," Alekseyev told Interfax, adding however that it "does not help" the six-party talks process.

Interfax separately quoted an unnamed senior military source as saying that Moscow, which has relatively friendly relations with Pyongyang, had received no warning from North Korea about the test launches.

"North Korea did not inform Russia through official channels about plans for missile launches," the Russian source said, noting however that North Korea was not party to any international agreements that would require it to do so.

"Russia and North Korea do not have any bilateral agreement requiring them to inform each other about missile launches," the source said.

Russia is part of the six-party talks -- along with the United States, China, Japan, South Korea and North Korea -- that aim to establish checks on Pyongyang's nuclear program. The talks have been stalled since November.

Russian officials confirmed that the UN Security Council would be meeting later Wednesday at the United Nations in New York at Japan's request to discuss the North Korean move, and said Russia would be taking "active part" in that meeting.

In Washington, the White House listed five launches, with a sixth unconfirmed, and said that North Korea had violated a missile test moratorium and perhaps also the September 2005 agreement it reached in the six-party talks.

According to US officials, the first launch was a SCUD-C at 2:33 pm (1833 GMT); then a No-dong or SCUD-C at 3:04 pm (1904 GMT); then the Taepodong-2, which lifted off at 4:01 pm (2001 GMT) but vanished less than a minute later.

These were followed by what were believed to be a SCUD that was fired at 6:12 pm (2212 GMT) and a Nodong at 6:31 pm (2231 GMT).

The sixth and last testing was also of a short-range missile.




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