Archive for Thursday, March 13, 2003

Japan sends destroyer in response to reports of more N. Korea missile testing

March 13, 2003

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— Japan has sent a destroyer to the Sea of Japan, the Defense Agency said early today, amid media reports that North Korea may soon test an intermediate-range ballistic missile.

Meanwhile, South Korea's top diplomat urged North Korea early today to accept a U.S. proposal to defuse a nuclear dispute through multilateral talks.

South Korea Foreign Minister Yoon Young-kwan criticized the North's objections to such international negotiations as "illogical." The day before, he urged the United States to be more flexible.

In Tokyo, Defense Agency spokesman Yoshiyuki Ueno said the Aegis-equipped destroyer -- which includes top-of-the-line surveillance systems -- was deployed to the Sea of Japan between Japan and North Korea.

Ueno refused to say when the destroyer was deployed, and described its mission as part of regular patrol activities.

But the dispatch came as two major Japanese newspapers reported North Korea appears to be making final preparations to test-launch its Rodong ballistic missile, possibly around the sea.

The Yomiuri, Japan's largest newspaper, said U.S. military officials in Japan notified their Japanese counterparts of the possibility last week after North Korean army vehicles were spotted gathering near several launching sites in the northeast and other parts of the isolated communist country.

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