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THE WORLD

N. Korea Fires Missile

It falls in the sea as Bush and Asian leaders discuss Pyongyang's nuclear program.

October 21, 2003|Paul Richter and Maura Reynolds | Times Staff Writers

WASHINGTON — North Korea on Monday fired an antiship missile in the sea between South Korea and Japan, as President Bush and East Asian leaders conferred on how to deal with Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.

The test firing, apparently part of a military exercise, occurred a day after Bush said he would favor giving North Korea a five-nation security guarantee if it abandons nuclear arms. Bush and Asian leaders are attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Bangkok, Thailand, where North Korea and counterterrorism have dominated the agenda thus far.

North Korea has routinely used provocative military demonstrations to draw attention to its diplomatic demands. Pyongyang fired a similar antiship missile in February on the day South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun was inaugurated. In August 1998, Pyongyang alarmed much of Asia by firing a longer-range Taepodong missile over Japan. The action was taken as a sign of progress in the nation's strategic missile program.

Experts doubted that the Stalinist regime intended Monday's test as a response to Bush's proposal. "I don't think you can tie the two together," said Charles L. Pritchard, a former U.S. special envoy to negotiations with North Korea.

South Korean military officials said it appeared that the test firing was part of an exercise and noted that the North had conducted such exercises two or three times this year.

Japan's Self-Defense Forces said the missile was launched from the eastern coast of North Korea at noon local time. It was apparently a version of the Chinese Silkworm, which has a range of about 60 miles.

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Richter reported from Washington and Reynolds from Bangkok.

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