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US urges N Korea "step back" after missile tests

Written by: Staff
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WASHINGTON, July 5 (Reuters) The United States today said it was working with key allies to find a diplomatic way to get North Korea to ''step back'' after Pyongyang test-fired a barrage of missiles.

White House spokesman Tony Snow voiced concern North Korea, which carried out a failed test of a new long-range missile among today's firings, may have two or three more short- and medium-range missiles that are ''launchable.'' ''We don't know if that's going to happen or not,'' he told reporters. ''Honestly we don't know what to expect.'' Though Washington had long warned of a harsh response if Pyongyang tested its long-range Taepodong-2 missile, Snow stopped short of threatening to push for UN sanctions as the Security Council prepared to convene.

''I'm not going to lay out the options sheet right now,'' he told reporters.

''The key point is to figure out a diplomatic way to get the North Koreans to step back and rejoin the six-party talks.'' Snow said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had spoken to her counterparts in South Korea, China and Russia, all members of six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program, to determine the ''proper way forward.'' He said Christopher Hill, the US envoy to the six-party talks, would head to the region tomorrow.

The long-range weapon fired by North Korea is said to be capable of reaching Alaska, ratcheting up tensions in north Asia and drawing condemnation from around the world. The missile landed harmlessly in the Sea of Japan.

Snow said the US military had determined with a ''high degree of confidence'' that the test of the missile was a ''launch failure'' rather than an aborted firing.

He said the United States would not allow North Korea to turn the missile launch crisis into a bilateral matter limited to Washington and Pyongyang.

''This is not a US-North Korea issue and we are not going to permit the leader of North Korea to transform it into that.'' US officials have called the test firings ''provocative behavior'' but say they do not threaten US territory.

REUTERS SHB RK2105

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