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North Korea Reportedly Test-Fires Short-Range Missile - 2003-04-01

There are conflicting reports that North Korea has test-fired another short-range missile. Those reports are increasing tensions in Japan about Pyongyang’s nuclear program. Japanese officials backed away from earlier military reports of a missile launch, after South Korean officials claimed there was no evidence of a launch. Robert Raffaele has more on the situation.

Japan again urged North Korea to work toward talks concerning its nuclear activities, following reports that the North launched a surface-to-ship missile off its northwestern coast Tuesday. A spokesman for Japan’s Foreign Ministry had this to say.

“Since this is not a ballistic missile, we do not think that this launch would pose a direct threat to the security of Japan. However, we take this action of North Korea as another step to escalate the tension surrounding North Korea and Korean peninsula, and we strongly urge North Korea to stop this kind of action and return to the negotiating table.”

Tensions have been high on the Korean Peninsula since October, when U.S. officials said North Korea admitted to a secret nuclear arms program. North Korea denied making any such admission, but announced that a moratorium on missile tests was no longer in effect. Defense experts believe Pyongyang is developing missiles such as the Taepodong One and Two, with ranges of up to 6,000 kilometers.

North Korea test-fired two short-range, anti-ship missiles within the past two months. Recent Japanese news reports said Pyongyang may be planning to launch a medium-range ballistic missile that could reach most parts of Japan. Those reports prompted Japan to launch two spy satellites into orbit last week. North Korea denounced that move as a ‘hostile act,’ that could spark a new arms race.