North Korea Has Three to Five More Missiles on Launch Pads
SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea has between three and five missiles on launch pads ready for firing, but none of them are the long-range intercontinental type, FOX News has confirmed.
All of the missiles are believed to be short- to medium-range and are of no threat to the United States, but could reach U.S. allies like Japan.
The South Korean defense minister, Yoon Kwang-ung, warned that further tests were possible, South Korean media reported Thursday.
"There is a possibility that North Korea will fire additional missiles," Yonhap news agency quoted him telling lawmakers.
But none of those missiles are reported to be Taepodong-2, a long-range ballistic missile that could reach the U.S.
FOX News has learned that U.S. officials do believe North Korea has more Taepodong-2 missiles, but there is no information that the North Koreans are preparing to launch any.
The North has also barred people from sailing into some areas off the coast until July 11 in a possible sign of preparations for additional launches, South Korean media has reported.
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On Wednesday, North Korea test-fired seven missiles, triggering international condemnation. The missiles apparently fell into the sea without causing damage or injuries.
In a meeting in response to the launches, Japan, the U.S. and Britain pressed the U.N. Security Council to slap economic sanctions on North Korea for the series of missile test-launches, but ran into immediate opposition from Pyongyang allies Russia and China, who insisted diplomacy was the only way to resolve the crisis.
In an emergency Security Council meeting Wednesday, Japan sought strong condemnation of the North's launching of several missiles Wednesday, including a long-range Taepodong-2. The launches came despite repeated warnings from the West and its allies not to do so.
Japan later circulated a resolution that would ban any country from transferring funds, material and technology that could be used in North Korea's missile and weapons of mass destruction programs.
Yet China and Russia urged a more cautious approach, and even U.S. President George W. Bush refrained from tough rhetoric about the launch of the Taepodong-2, which could potentially reach the United States but failed 42 seconds after launch.
He said the North can still "join the community of nations" with "those of us who believe that there is a positive way forward for the North Korean government and her people."
Bush spoke by phone to Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and they agreed to cooperate in pushing for a U.N. resolution to impose sanctions on North Korea, Japan's Kyodo news agency reported Thursday. The U.S. president also spoke to South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and they agreed to cooperate on the missile issue, a South Korean official said.
In closed consultations Wednesday afternoon, Russia and China made clear their distaste for a resolution, which could be legally enforceable. Instead, they indicated they would back a presidential statement that goes into the council record but is not binding.
Both Chinese and Russian officials said they did not want to exacerbate tensions. North Korea has repeatedly said that Security Council sanctions would amount to a "declaration of war."
Russia's Ambassador Vitaly Churkin underscored that Moscow above all wants the resumption of six-party talks between China, Russia, Japan, the two Koreas, and the United States.
"I would caution you against whipping up the emotions too much," Churkin said. "I think we should be clear-headed in this situation and we should keep in mind the fact that the goal should be the resumption of six-party talks and the ultimate diplomatic solution to this situation."
Similarly, a Chinese Foreign Ministry statement asked that "all the relevant sides can remain calm and restrained and do more things which are conducive to peace and stability."
If approved, the council would strongly urge North Korea to immediately return to six-party talks "without precondition" and stop all nuclear-related activities with the aim of completely dismantling its nuclear programs, including both plutonium reprocessing and uranium enrichment.
North Korea claims it has atomic bombs, and some experts now believe that North Korea may have separated enough plutonium to develop an arsenal of four to 13 nuclear weapons. Still, experts also believe that North Korea does not have the capability to create a nuclear warhead small enough to put on a missile.
The fault lines among the five permanent members of the council -- Russia and China facing off against the U.S. and Britain, backed by France -- seemed to presage delicate negotiations over a formal response to the North's action.
A U.S. diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Washington still had not decided how strenuously it would push for sanctions against the North.
The resolution aside, members of the council appeared united in their disapproval of the launches.
U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said the initial council meeting Wednesday was "very interesting because no member defended what the North Koreans have done."
"I think there is support for sending a clear signal to Pyongyang," he said.
Sanctions could be difficult to achieve because, while North Korea broke a seven-year moratorium on launches, it did not actually flaunt any international obligation, experts said.
"What treaty did North Korea violate here?" said Charles Kartman, a retired diplomat who represented the U.S. in talks with North Korea in the late 1990s. "Their great sin is that this is an unannounced threat to airmen and sailors. But there is no missile testing convention that they have violated."
North Korea's U.N. Ambassador Pak Gil Yon refused to talk to reporters Wednesday when he arrived at his country's U.N. mission. He shielded himself with a large black umbrella against the rain and the media barrage.
France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, the current council president, said after the council meeting that all 15 members "expressed deep concern" at the missile tests.
"Thirteen delegations were in favor of a resolution and two delegations thought a presidential statement would be more appropriate," he said, confirming that these were China and Russia.
China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya and Russia's Churkin both noted that after North Korea shocked Japan in August 1998 by blasting a Taepodong-1 missile over its territory and into the Pacific Ocean, the Security Council reacted with a press statement.
The North said it was an attempt to put a satellite in orbit, and the council urged Pyongyang not to launch another satellite or other object without warning. It also called on neighboring countries to refrain from taking retaliatory action.
Japan's U.N. Ambassador Kenzo Oshima called the seven missile launches on Wednesday "far more serious."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.