- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 27, 2009

North Korea reportedly tested a third missile late Tuesday following the launch of two short-range missiles, a day after detonating a nuclear bomb underground pushing the regime further into a confrontation with world powers despite the threat of U.N. action.

Adding to the missile activity, South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported Wednesday that North Korea apparently has restarted its main nuclear plant that makes bomb-grade plutonium. The newspaper attributed the report to an unnamed South Korean government source who said steam at the Yongbyon plant was detected by U.S. spy satellites.

The latest short-range missile was fired into the East Sea/Japan Sea, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported, also citing an unidentified government official.

“Intelligence authorities are now closely monitoring the situation,” the source said.

Two of Tuesday’s missiles one ground-to-air, the other ground-to-ship with a range of about 80 miles were test-fired from an east coast launchpad, Yonhap reported earlier.

Pyongyang also warned ships to stay away from its western coast this week, a sign it may be gearing up for more missile tests, South Korea’s coast guard said.

North Korea is “trying to test whether they can intimidate the international community” with its nuclear and missile activity, said Susan E. Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

“But we are united, North Korea is isolated and pressure on North Korea will increase,” Ms. Rice said. On Monday, President Obama assailed Pyongyang, accusing it of engaging in “reckless” actions that have endangered the region, and the North accused Washington of hostility.

Wall Street was lower in early trading as North Korea’s actions kept investors on edge. Stocks later rose on upbeat economic news.

North Korea appeared to be displaying its might following its underground atomic test that the U.N. Security Council condemned as a “clear violation” of a 2006 resolution banning the regime from developing its nuclear program.

France called for new sanctions, while the U.S. and Japan pushed for strong action against North Korea for testing a bomb.

But many questioned whether new punishment would have any effect on a nation already penalized by numerous sanctions and clearly dismissive of the Security Council’s jurisdiction.

“I agree that the North Koreans are recalcitrant and very difficult to hold to any agreement that they sign up to,” Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations, John Sawers, told the British Broadcasting Corp. “But there is a limited range of options here.”

South Korea said it would join a maritime web of more than 90 nations that intercept ships suspected of spreading weapons of mass destruction a move North Korea warned would constitute an act of war.

North Korea’s nuclear test raises worries that it could act as a facilitator of the atomic ambitions of other nations and potentially even terrorists.

Its test of a long-range missile in July 2006 and its first nuclear test in October 2006 drew stiff sanctions from the Security Council and orders to refrain from engaging in ballistic missile-related activity and to stop developing its nuclear program.

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