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North Korea launches missiles, UN Council to meet

Written by: Staff

TOKYO, July 5 (Reuters) North Korea test-fired a barrage of missiles today, including a long-range weapon said to be capable of reaching Alaska, ratcheting up tensions in north Asia and drawing international condemnation.

At least six missiles were launched early in the morning and a seventh some 12 hours later, officials in Japan and South Korea said. Russia said North Korea fired 10 missiles, but the report from a senior general could not be immediately confirmed.

The long-range Taepodong-2 missile apparently failed 40 seconds into its flight, US officials said. Japanese and South Korean officials said the missiles fell into the sea separating the Korean peninsula from Japan.

The United States warned North Korea against any more provocative acts, and said Washington would take necessary measures to protect itself and its allies.

''The United States strongly condemns these missile launches and North Korea's unwillingness to heed calls for restraint from the international community,'' White House spokesman Tony Snow said in a statement.

The UN Security Council was to meet later in the day, at Japan's request, to discuss the latest move by the reclusive Stalinist state, a French spokesman at the United Nations said.

China, North Korea's closest ally and the host of six-way talks on its nuclear programme, expressed worry.

''We are seriously concerned about the events that have occurred,'' Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said in a statement.

''We hope that all sides will maintain calm and restraint, and do things conducive to the peace and stability of the Korean peninsula and Northeast Asia and do not take any further steps that will add to tensions and further complicate the situation.'' South Korea's military stepped up its alert level after the launch, Yonhap news agency cited a military source as saying.

The two Koreas are technically still at war more than half a century after the inconclusive truce which halted the 1950-1953 Korean conflict. Some 30,000 US troops remain in South Korea under a mutual defence treaty.

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