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North Korea Test Fires Missiles, Makes Assurances on Nuclear Agreement

North Korea has test-fired several short-range missiles into the Sea of Japan, but South Korean officials say they are not concerned. As VOA's Heda Bayron reports from our Asia News Center in Hong Kong, the test came as a senior North Korean diplomat was making assurances that his country would implement an agreement toward nuclear disarmament.

The South Korean government downplayed the North's missile launches Friday, saying they were part of a routine military exercise in the communist country.

The latest show of military power by North Korea came as diplomats continued pressing Pyongyang to fulfill its promise to shut down a nuclear facility in exchange for economic and diplomatic benefits.

North Korea has refused to implement the agreement until it gets back $25 million that was frozen in a Macau bank.

Earlier Friday, a senior North Korean diplomat told the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Security Forum in Manila that there are no other obstacles to the implementation of the nuclear agreement.

Jong Song Il, deputy director general of the North Korean Foreign Ministry, says his country will carry out its commitments as soon as the money is returned.

North Korea missed a deadline last month to shut down the Yongbyon nuclear plant and allow international inspection.

At the same Manila forum, Christopher Hill, the top U.S. envoy on the nuclear issue, said he hopes the issue will be resolved this month.

"I do believe that the DPRK has continued to signal to us privately and publicly, and most recently last night, that as soon as the banking matter is resolved they will move quickly to implement their part of the deal," said Hill.

Macau froze the North Korean funds in 2005 after the U.S. blacklisted the Macau bank that held the accounts for being what it called a "willing pawn" in North Korea's money laundering activities.

At the end of a U.S. investigation in March, Macau said it would release the funds, but experts say there has been difficulty getting another bank to accept the money for fear of jeopardizing dealings with the United States.

North Korea fired several missiles last July and conducted its first nuclear test in October.