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Monday, June 19, 2006

North Korea Has Missile That Can Hit USA, They Can't Wait To Try It

North Korea appeared close Sunday to test-firing a long-range missile capable of reaching the United States, prompting the White House to warn of an appropriate response and Japan to threaten a "fierce" protest to the United Nations.

North Korea was silent on the issue but vowed to bolster its "military deterrent" in a burst of fiery rhetoric carried by its state news agency.

A test launch of what is believed to be a Taepodong-2 missile would inflame a region tense over the North's continuing nuclear weapons program.

"There are signs" of an imminent missile launch, Jung Tae-ho, a spokesman at the South Korean president's office, told The Associated Press. He added that security officials were "closely watching the situation."

The North last conducted such a launch in August 1998. Pyongyang imposed a moratorium on testing long-range missiles in 1999.

The White House spokesman said Sunday the United States expected the North to abide by that freeze.

"We do not want to have a missile test out of North Korea," Tony Snow told "Fox News Sunday." "The North Koreans themselves decided in 1999 that they would place a moratorium on this kind of testing, and we expect them to maintain the moratorium."

Snow noted that North Korea made a series of commitments in six-nation talks over its nuclear program in September, including that they would "bargain in good faith."

"We expect them to come back to the table," Snow said. "And we hope there's not going to be a launch."

Japan, Australia and the United States have united in saying that any test-launching of an intercontinental missile by North Korea would result in serious and stern consequences.

Reports say Pyongyang has completed fueling a missile with the range to reach the United States, increasing the chances a launch might occur soon.

U.S. officials told Reuters news agency it was difficult to remove fuel from a Taepodong-2 missile, making it appear likely that Pyongyang was serious about the launch.

Since word of a possible test-firing emerged last week, nations around the world have expressed growing concern.

On Monday, Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was the latest leader to say the nation would respond sternly to a missile test by North Korea.

Earlier, Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer warned the North Korean ambassador that "serious consequences would follow such a firing."

"Such action would be highly provocative and would further isolate the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea," Downer said in a statement issued early Monday.

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