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North Korea Vows More Missile Launches


North Korea has issued defiant words in response to broad international criticism of its missile launches this week. International efforts to shape a reply to the missile tests include scheduled visits to Asia by senior U.S. diplomats, and a U.S.-South Korean summit in Washington.

North Korean media proudly proclaimed the seven missile launches Wednesday a success.

A North Korean announcer reads a statement from Pyongyang's Foreign Ministry saying the missile launches helped build national defense.

The announcement goes on to say that North Korea will conduct more missile tests, as a means of enhancing what Pyongyang calls its "self-defensive deterrent." It says North Korea views the launches as completely separate from multinational diplomacy aimed at ending its nuclear weapons development.

It also warns that North Korea will take unspecified "stronger physical actions" against any country that dares to pressure it over the launches.

North Korea defied multiple warnings and expressions of concern from friends and foes alike Wednesday by test firing at least seven missiles, including a long-range Taepodong-2 missile potentially capable of reaching the United States.

A senior lawmaker from South Korea's main opposition party says South Korean intelligence officials believe a second Taepodong-2 is now being readied for launch.

Jung Tae-ho, a spokesman for South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, says Mr. Roh spoke by telephone with President Bush.

He says they agreed the launches were a serious provocation, and promised to cooperate on diplomatic steps to address the issue.

A statement from President Roh's office says Seoul remains committed to resolving issues with North Korea through dialogue, taking steps which do not increase tension on the Korean peninsula.

But Seoul's Unification and Foreign Ministries have said that a review is underway on key aspects of North-South cooperation, including food aid and economic joint ventures. South Korea has transferred billions of dollars worth of rice, fertilizer, and other assistance to the North during the past six years, usually asking little or nothing in return.

Some analysts suggest the launches were aimed at pressuring Washington into one-on-one talks with Pyongyang, something the North Koreans have been requesting for years.

Baek Haksoon, a researcher with Seoul's Sejong Institute and a governmental advisor, thinks Pyongyang will succeed.

He says he believes North Korea's behavior will eventually pressure the United States into agreeing to one-on-one talks with Pyongyang. He says there is probably no other way of resolving differences between the two nations.

But the Bush Administration has ruled out bilateral talks, saying the only appropriate forum is the six-nation talks aimed at persuading the North abandon its nuclear weapons capabilities.

In September, Pyongyang promised in principle to dismantle its nuclear programs, in exchange for financial and diplomatic incentives, but further talks aimed at implementing that pledge have stalled.

The chief U.S. envoy to the talks, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, is expected Friday in Seoul. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is expected here later in the month, and South Korean President Roh is scheduled to visit Washington in September for a summit with President Bush.

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