N. Korea Warned on Missile Test

By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 4, 2006

A senior U.S. official warned North Korea yesterday that it would be "profoundly unwise" to carry out reported plans to launch a long-range missile.

In an escalation of diplomatic sparring over North Korean preparations to test a Taepodong-2 ballistic missile, Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns said "our strong advice obviously is for the North Koreans not to engage in any type of provocative activity." He and other U.S. officials urged Pyongyang to return to negotiations known as the six-party talks and to eliminate its nuclear weapons.

"The reports we've seen that the North Koreans might be preparing a missile launch, that would be a profoundly unwise step by the North Koreans," Burns said in an interview for the C-SPAN program "The Newsmakers." If North Korea goes ahead with the launch, "the United States would respond appropriately, including by taking the necessary measures to protect ourselves," State Department spokesman Edgar Vasquez said.

North Korea threatened an "annihilating strike" yesterday if the U.S. military attacked its nuclear facilities preemptively. "The army and people of the DPRK are now in full preparedness to answer a preemptive attack with a relentless annihilating strike and a nuclear war with a mighty nuclear deterrent," according to a report by North Korea's Central News Agency cited by the Associated Press.

North Korea has a Taepodong-2 missile poised for a possible launch, although it is not clear whether it has been fully fueled. The two- or three-stage missile has estimated ranges that give it the potential of striking parts of the United States.

U.S. officials played down the possibility of a preemptive strike. "The United States has no intention of invading or attacking North Korea," Vasquez said. He urged Pyongyang to fulfill the vision of a Sept. 19 joint statement that calls for the complete and verifiable elimination of North Korean nuclear weapons and programs.

The United States has speeded plans to deploy Patriot interceptor missiles at U.S. bases in Japan, acknowledging the threat that North Korea might pose.

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