- The Washington Times - Monday, March 10, 2003

SEOUL, South Korea, March 10 (UPI) — North Korea fired another ground-to-ship missile Monday into international waters between the Korean peninsula and Japan, Seoul's Defense Ministry said.

The missile launch came two weeks after Pyongyang test-fired the first one in a failed attempt to launch a homegrown guided cruise missile, which placed South Korea and Japan on alert.

"The missile was fired around noon today on the East Sea (Sea of Japan)," a defense official told United Press International. "We judged the missile was the same type as was test-fired on Feb. 24," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The missile was likely fired from the beach at Sinsang-ri, in the northeastern coastal province of Hamkyong, and went off in mid-air before it reached the target, some 110 kilometers away, the official said. The homegrown cruise missile an estimated range of up to 160 kilometers (100 miles), he said.

"We are still trying to find out exactly what type of missile it was and whether the test was successful," he said.

Analysts said the missile appeared to be an advanced version of a Chinese-design Silkworm missile.

Monday's launch did not violate North Korea's voluntary moratorium on long-range ballistic missile tests because it was a guided cruise missile of shorter range.

South Korea and the United States had anticipated Pyongyang's second missile test in two weeks since Pyongyang declared a maritime exclusion zone in the Sea of Japan from March 8 to 11. Sea exclusion zones are established in international waters by countries when they want to keep ships and other vessels out of an area for military purposes.

On Feb. 24, North Korea fired an anti-ship cruise missile into the same zone, upstaging the inauguration of South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, who has vowed to push for unconditional reconciliation toward the communist neighbor.

But the missile appeared to have exploded in midair because of defects, according to Seoul's Defense Minister Cho Young-kil. Cho said North Korea conducted the missile test several months earlier than scheduled as part of "brinkmanship tactic" aimed at pressing for two-way security negotiations with the United States.

The second missile test came after top U.S. officials on Sunday reaffirmed Washington's policy not to have direct talks with North Korea, saying a multilateral dialogue instead is the best way to address the North's nuclear ambitions. Pyongyang opposes multilateral talks.

Seoul's Defense Ministry has warned North Korea against further "dangerous" military maneuvers that could bring "serious consequences" to the peninsula, referring to the earlier missile test and the March 2 interception of a U.S. spy plane by North Korean jet fighters.

On Monday, North Korea reacted angrily to Seoul's warning with a counter-warning, saying its "irrational acts" will only lead to returning inter-Korean relations to a state of confrontation.

The interception of the U.S. reconnaissance plane was "an act of the right to self-defense," said Rodong Sinmun, the North's main state-run newspaper. "If South Korean authorities are at all interested in peace, they should speak out to the foreign power, the United States, which is threatening peace."

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