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North Korea launches missiles, U.S hold U.N. talks

Written by: Staff
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TOKYO, July 5 (Reuters) North Korea launched at least five missiles today, including a long-range Taepodong-2, a move US President George W Bush said defied the international community.

The Taepodong-2, a multi-stage missile that might be able to reach Alaska, apparently failed 40 seconds into its flight, US officials said.

The United States said it was urgently consulting other UN Security Council members after the launches, which occurred despite repeated warnings from the reclusive Stalinist country's neighbours and from Washington.

The yen slid against the dollar and euro on the news and South Korea's economic authorities were due to hold early talks to discuss the threat to their financial markets.

Bush sees the missile firing as ''defiance'' of the international community by North Korea,'' a senior US administration official said. ''This is further indication of the isolation of North Korea.'' US National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley called the launches ''provocative behaviour'', but said they were not a threat to US territory.

''We are urgently consulting with other delegations of Security Council on the situation,'' the US ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, said in a statement.

Japan said it would consider economic sanctions against North Korea and said it wanted to take the issue to the Security Council. The Council already has a scheduled meeting for today at which the issue is likely to be taken up.

Tokyo also called for Pyongyang to return to six-country talks on ending its nuclear weapons programme, which have been stalled since the end of last year.

''It is regrettable and we protest strongly against North Korea for going ahead with a launch despite warnings from relevant countries, including Japan,'' Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe told a news conference in Tokyo.

''It is a serious problem from the standpoint of our national security, peace and stability of the international community and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.'' South Korea said it had called an emergency meeting of its ministers involved in national security to discuss the launches.

LONG-RANGE MISSILE A US State Department official in Washington told Reuters a long-range missile, believed to be a Taepodong-2, failed 40 seconds after it was launched.

Experts say the Taepodong-2 has a possible range of 3,500-4,300 km (2,190-2,690 miles).

MORE REUTERS DH VP0535

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