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Asia-Pacific Leaders Warn North Korea Against Test Missile Launch


World leaders are stating in no uncertain terms Pyongyang will only worsen its international standing if it goes through with a missile test experts say may be imminent. Japan, the United States, and Australia are among the chorus warning North Korea of negative consequences if the test goes through.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's language was direct and blunt Monday, as he sought to deter North Korea from conducting a long-range missile test.

Mr. Koizumi says if North Korea fires its missile, Japan's response is certain to be stern and harsh. He says Tokyo will immediately enter into consultations with the United States on a possible response.

For nearly a week, international media have reported intelligence officials as saying evidence is mounting Pyongyang intends to test a Taepodong-2 missile. These long-range rockets are believed to be capable of reaching Alaska, Hawaii, or even the west coast of the United States.

If the test goes ahead it will be the end of the moratorium North Korea imposed on long-range missile testing in 1999, after it shocked Japan by firing a missile over its main island the previous year.

The White House says a launch would require some kind of response from the United States. Senior Japanese officials say a missile test would lead to them to request an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council, possibly to seek punitive measures against Pyongyang. Tokyo says it already has the legal framework in place to impose its own domestic sanctions against the North. Pyongyang has warned it would perceive sanctions as an act of war.

Australia summoned North Korea's ambassador to Canberra Monday to warn against conducting the test. Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer says firing a missile would be highly provocative and only serve to further isolate Pyongyang.

Here in South Korea, the chairman of President Roh Moo-hyun's Uri political party made a direct appeal to North Korea to forego launching its missile.

Kim says a missile test would be a disaster for all and he urges Pyongyang to return to international talks on ending its nuclear weapons production and explain clearly what it wants from the international community.

North Korea promised last September in principle to end its nuclear weapons production, but has since refused to return to talks with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States aimed at implementing that pledge.

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