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Countries Split over Pyongyang Missile Tests

Prepared by: Esther Pan
July 6, 2006

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After North Korea test-fired at least six missiles into the Sea of Japan (NYT), countries in the region and around the world are split over how to respond. Japan and the United States are closely coordinating their responses, and have asked for a United Nations Security Council resolution against North Korea that includes sanctions (LAT). But Russia, China, and South Korea are reluctant to follow suit (Asia Times). Russian officials met with the North Korean ambassador, who characterized their talks as "friendly" (RIA Novosti). Seoul suspended humanitarian aid to North Korea but stopped short of applying economic sanctions (FT). China had a measured response, which highlights the complexity of Beijing's position: If Kim Jong Il's regime collapses, hundreds of thousands of refugees will flood into China—but a reunited Korea with strong U.S. backing is not exactly what China wants either (VOA).

With all these differing views, the Security Council is still deciding on its response as speculation mounts (IHT) that North Korea might conduct still more missile tests. An Asia Times analysis says the biggest advantage to Kim of the missile tests may be its divisive effect on his neighbors. CFR President Richard Haass told the Today show that Pyongyang wanted to remind the world it is a threat (Video clip). CFR Fellow Michael Levi tells Bernard Gwertzman in this interview that the real threat comes not from North Korea's missiles, but its nuclear weapons program.

The New York Times examines the options for dealing with North Korea and concludes that a coordinated international response might be the way forward. Christopher Hill, assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said in Congressional testimony June 29 that while a North Korean missile launch would be a "serious international security matter" and would raise questions about the future of the Six-Party Talks, the United States is prepared to return to the table with no preconditions. TIME calls the missile launches a diplomatic power play intended to give North Korea more bargaining power when talks resume.

The BBC profiles North Korea's missile program, believed to include some 800 ballistic missiles that could potentially reach targets as far away as Alaska or Australia. The Asia Times details Pyongyang's history of missiles sales to rogue states around the world and lists its arsenal of missiles and their ranges. MSNBC offers an interactive feature on the North Korean arsenal, and a 2005 CRS report (PDF) explores the debate over missile defense. The Asia Society's Shyama Venkateswar and Refugees International's Joel Charny write that the missile tests are drawing world attention away from the ongoing humanitarian crisis in North Korea (SFChron).

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