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Thursday, December 18, 2014  

N. Korea ‘tests’ new missile
SEOUL North Korea has been developing a new long-range ballistic missile in a separate programme from the one that led to a failed rocket launch this week, a South Korean TV station reported on Saturday even as a top Japanese defence official urged “crisis-management measures” ahead of a possible nuclear test by North Korea after its humiliating failure to launch a rocket.

YTN quoted an intelligence source as saying the communist state carried out four tests over 16 weeks until early this year to develop an inter-continental missile at a test facility at Musudan-ri on the northeastern coast.

The tests were aimed at improving engines and propellant fuel for the missile, code-named KN-08, the source said.

In Tokyo, Japan voiced concerns over the developments.

“We’d better keep in mind that they may conduct a nuclear test,” Senior Vice-Minister of Defence Shu Watanabe told a weekly news programme on the private TV Tokyo network.

“We must prepare crisis-management measures by remembering that they will surely do something in order to restore their damaged dignity,” he said.

At the United Nations, the UN Security Council on Friday “deplored” North Korea’s attempted rocket launch, as Washington halted plans to send food aid to Pyongyang saying the impoverished state cannot be trusted.

Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations and the council president for April, said it “deplored this launch” as a violation of the world body’s resolutions. It was “premature” to say what kind of measure the council might take, but the US “thinks a credible reaction is important,” Rice said.

China, the North’s closest ally, has yet to slam the North Korean act, but US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Beijing to do more.

Clinton spoke by telephone with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi as she sought a “unified way to speak out and condemn this action,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

Also on Saturday, Kim Jong-un promoted 70 officers to the rank of general, state media said, following a shake-up of parliament, cabinet and a top decision-making body.

The North announced new parliament and cabinet appointments on Friday at a session of its parliament, which also elected Jong-un as “first” chairman of the powerful National Defence Commission (NDC).

Three people including Choe Rong-Hae, seen as one of Jong-un’s confidants, were made new NDC members, while two new vice-premiers and other state organisation heads were also named.

In Pyongyang, tens of thousands of people gathered in a football stadium to shout support for North Korea’s ruling dynasty, a day after a failed rocket launch seen as a major embarrassment for the government. “Let’s safeguard Kim Jong-un with our lives!” they shouted.

In Seoul, South Korea stepped up an operation to retrieve debris from North Korea’s failed rocket launch, officials said, apparently in competition with Russia and China. Warships from China, Russia and the US have also launched their own operations, they said.

Agencies
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