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Australia Says North Korea Planning More Missile Tests


Australia has warned that North Korea could carry out more missile tests in the coming days. The warning follows talks between the Foreign Minister Alexander Down and the North Korean ambassador to Australia.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told reporters his government thinks North Korea is on the verge of more missile launches in the coming days.

However, Downer did not elaborate on what evidence there is of more launches, and officials said only that the comment was based on unspecified intelligence.

The comments came shortly after Downer expressed Australia's dismay at Pyongyang's missile to the North Korean ambassador, Chon Jae Hong.

Downer says he firmly voiced Australia's alarm.

"I've made it clear to him that we condemn what has happened and we see this as a real challenge to international security," he said.

Downer says the North Korean ambassador said his country launched the missiles because it feels threatened by the United States. Washington has denied repeatedly that it has any plans to attack North Korea.

The North Koreans successfully launched at least five short-range missiles early Wednesday. A sixth, a long-range intercontinental missile, failed within seconds of being fired.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard says Pyongyang should abandon its missile tests, and return to six-nation talks on ending its nuclear weapons programs.

"This is provocative. It is in breach of undertakings North Korea has given," he said. " North Korea should be condemned by everybody as she undoubtedly will be. We want this issue settled diplomatically and North Korea should understand that her interests lie in coming back to the six-party talks."

Those discussions involve the United States, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea.

Military experts think North Korea's long-range missiles could travel up to 4500 kilometers, which extending to northern Australia and to the U.S. states of Alaska and Hawaii. However, experts said Wednesday's tests posed no immediate threat to either country.

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