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Last Updated:  Monday, 10 March, 2003, 09:01 GMT
N Korea test-fires missile into sea
Previous North Korea missile launch
This was Pyongyang's second missile test in the last three weeks
North Korea has test-fired a missile into the sea off its coast, the South Korean defence ministry has said.

It was Pyongyang's second missile test in the past two weeks, following a launch on 24 February as South Korea was inaugurating its new president, Roh Moo-hyun.

The BBC's Caroline Gluck in Seoul says the test had been expected, as North Korea had warned ships to stay out of waters around the peninsula for four days.

But, she adds, the move is an attempt to put pressure on the United States to hold bilateral talks with Pyongyang over North Korea's nuclear programme.

Japan's foreign ministry said North Korea had fired a land-to-ship missile towards the Sea of Japan at about 1200 local time (0300 GMT), but played down the significance of the move.

"We understand this was not a ballistic missile and therefore is not considered a direct threat to Japan," a spokesman said.

A South Korean official said the test apparently involved a short-range anti-ship missile and was launched from Sinsangri on North Korea's east coast.

The missile is believed to have landed into the sea some 110 kilometres (70 miles) off the east coast, the official said

The test launch came shortly after US officials reiterated that Washington would not hold direct talks with Pyongyang in order to resolve the nuclear standoff between the two countries.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice both said on Sunday that multilateral talks would be more productive.

North Korea called on Friday for bilateral talks, saying Washington was alleging Pyongyang was developing nuclear weapons in order to disarm it.

The accusation came as US and South Korean troops conducted joint military exercises near the North Korean border.

No bilateral talks

Mr Powell said talks had to involve other countries in the region.

"I think eventually we will be talking to North Korea, but we're not going to simply fall into what I believe is a bad practice of saying the only way you can talk to us is directly," he said on US television.

Previous bilateral negotiations with Pyongyang did not prevent it from developing nuclear weapons, Mr Powell said.

16 Oct: US says N Korea admits to a secret nuclear programme
14 Nov: US halts oil shipments to N Korea
22 Dec: N Korea removes monitoring devices at Yongbyon nuclear plant
31 Dec: UN nuclear inspectors forced to leave
10 Jan: N Korea pulls out of anti-nuclear treaty
12 Feb: IAEA refers issue to UN Security Council
27 Feb: US says Yongbyon reactor restarted

"This time we want a better solution. We want a solution that involves all the countries in the region, and I hope North Korea understands that it is also in their interests to have all the nations in the region part of this dialogue," he said.

"Within that broader dialogue, we'll be talking to the North Koreans."

In a separate television interview, Ms Rice said Russia, China, Japan and South Korea would have to take part.

Ms Rice likewise insisted collective negotiations were a must.

"We have to bring the weight of the international community, in a multilateral fashion, to deal with the North Korean threat, so that the North Koreans know that there is no way out," Ms Rice told ABC.

She dismissed the suggestion that direct bilateral negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang would be sufficient to resolve the crisis, saying North Korea did not respect the terms of a 1994 nuclear safeguard agreement.

The BBC's Caroline Gluck
"North Korea is increasing pressure on the US"


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