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Last updated: July 5, 2009 5:38 pm
The ballistic missiles that North Korea test-fired this weekend could be capable of striking key government and military facilities in South Korea, a defence official said on Sunday, amid growing concerns over Pyongyang’s firepower.
North Korea fired seven ballistic missiles into the sea off its east coast on Saturday. The launches, which came on the US Independence day, were the North’s biggest one-day barrage since it fired a long-range Taepodong-2 and six smaller missiles in 2006.
The missiles appear to have travelled about 250 miles (400km), meaning they could have reached almost any point in South Korea, an official at the South Korean defence ministry said. Yonhap News, a local wire service, said the missiles were either Scud or Rodong-1 missiles.
The North’s neighbours criticised the test. Seoul called it a “provocative act” that violated UN Security Council resolutions banning Pyongyang from all ballistic missile activity. “Our military is fully prepared to deal with any threats and provocations by the North, based on a strong joint defence alliance with the US,” Seoul’s joint chiefs of staff said.
Japan’s foreign affairs ministry said in a statement it had made a protest through its Beijing embassy with North Korea, calling the launching of ballistic missiles a “serious act of provocation with regards to the security of neighbouring countries including Japan, as a well as a breach of UN Security Council Resolutions 1695, 1718 and 1874.”
The government also urged North Korea to take specific action towards the resolution of the past abduction of Japanese nationals and its nuclear and missile programme.
Russia, China, and the US expressed concern over an “escalation of tension” in the region, but called for calm, saying all sides should refrain from any steps that could further destabilise the situation and that North Korea should return to the stalled six-party talks aimed at denuclearising the Korean peninsula.
Experts said the missile launches could be seen as the North’s warning to the international community about enforcing new sanctions to impede its financial dealings with the outside world and curb its arms trade. The US has recently tightened its crackdown on companies seen as involved in Pyongyang’s proliferation of missile technology.
Although the North’s latest belligerence move is expected to isolate the country further, some experts said the launches are aimed at advertising its wares to potential customers such as Iran, Syria and Libya.
Missile sales are one of the few ways North Korea can earn much-needed hard currency.
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