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Top US Democrat says North Korea 'paper tiger'

Written by: Staff
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WASHINGTON, July 5 (Reuters) North Korea's test-firing of missiles was an act of a ''paper tiger'' that has miscalculated the world's response and may result in sanctions, the senior Democrat on the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee said today.

Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware said he was more concerned about Pyongyang's taking conventional provocative acts that could escalate tensions in north Asia, than about it's ability to hit US territory with a missile.

Asked on CBS' ''The Early Show'' whether Washington should have destroyed the missiles before launch, Biden said, ''I would rather have seen it do exactly what it did, demonstrate to the whole world that it is in fact a paper tiger.

''It does not have the capacity to do any short-term damage to the United States of America or Japan,'' said Biden, a potential Democratic candidate for president in 2008.

North Korea launched seven missiles that landed in the Sea of Japan, but US officials said its long-range Taepodong-2 missile, said to be capable of reaching Alaska, apparently failed 40 seconds into flight.

The UN Security Council was to meet today at the request of Japan, and Biden said North Korea's act may unify the United States, Japan, South Korea, China and Russia -- the five other members of the stalled six-party talks with the North -- to enact sanctions.

''I think ultimately going to have to sit down with these guys, they are so immature, they are so ham-handed, it is frighteningly naive the way they act. That's the part that worries me about them, not their nuclear program and missiles at the moment,'' he said.

North Korea's act stepped up tensions in north Asia, but Biden said he was more concerned about the destabilizing effect in the region than the threat to the United States.

''They (Pyongyang) may try to play a game of brinksmanship conventionally on the continent, or their actions be so provocative that they cause the South or Japan to move toward their own movement toward nuclear capability. That's the worry to me,'' he said.

REUTERS PKS RK1820

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