Asia Diplomats Ponder Response to North Korea's Missile Activities

Diplomats in Asia are pondering their next responses to North Korea after its attempted launch last week of a multi-stage rocket which fell apart and splashed down in the Yellow Sea.

A U.S. envoy, traveling in Asia, is expressing hope diplomacy can still persuade North Korea to change its behavior.

Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell made stops Monday in Tokyo and Seoul for consultations with allies.

“There's a very strong determination among all the international partners - including China, Russia, Japan, South Korea - all the countries of Asia, to discourage any further provocations from North Korea,” Campbell said.

Campbell made his remarks during a break in talks with high level South Korean officials, following his arrival from Tokyo.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in a radio address Monday said the time has come for the North to change course and give up its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

President Lee said Pyongyang's attempt to threaten the world and promote internal unity by pursuing nuclear weapons and missiles is actually putting North Korea into greater danger. He said it should heed the historical lesson of the Soviet Union, which collapsed while trying to engage in an costly arms race.

The South Korean president added that the money which North Korea spent on Friday's launch - which he claims totaled $850 million - could have bought enough corn to feed the impoverished country for six years.

North Korea, in a terse announcement four hours after Friday's launch, said it had failed to place an earth observation satellite into orbit.

Pyongyang says it has a sovereign right to pursue a peaceful space program. But the launch raised alarm among the international community. Both South Korea and the United States termed it a disguised military launch of a Taepodong-2 ballistic missile.

Sunday in Pyongyang, marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, the nation's military paraded an unprecedented amount of arms.

There was a glimpse of what many analysts believe is a new missile.

Among those is a researcher at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses, Ham Hyeong-pil. He told VOA North Korea displayed a new ballistic missile five to six meters longer than the Musudan type first seen in August 2010.

Ham said he estimates what was paraded Sunday has a range of 4,000 to 5,000 kilometers, making it closer to an intercontinental ballistic missile than an intermediate range weapon.

That would give it the capability to strike South Korea, Japan and U.S. military bases on Guam, but not able to reach Alaska or Hawaii.

North Korea has been striving to successfully fire a long-range multi-stage missile that could carry a heavier payload, such as a nuclear weapon.

Two previous failed long-range missile tests, in 2006 and 2009, were followed by underground nuclear tests. There is speculation Pyongyang will soon detonate a third nuclear device.

The past provocative acts have led to international sanctions against North Korea and discouraged most countries from sending it badly needed food and other aid.

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