north korea fires surface-to-ship missile

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    North Korea fires surface-to-ship missile

    10.03.2003 6.07 pm

    TOKYO - North Korea fired a surface-to-ship missile towards the Sea of Japan on Monday, Japanese officials said, in an apparent move to step up pressure for United States concessions in a nuclear stand-off.

    But the officials added that the launch, which had been expected, posed no direct threat to Japan.

    The missile - which officials said was not ballistic - was launched toward the Sea of Japan at around midday Japanese time (4pm NZT).

    "We do not believe that this poses a serious threat to our nation's peace and stability," Defence Minister Shigeru Ishiba told a parliamentary panel shortly after news of the launch.

    South Korea confirmed the launch and said the missile appeared to be the same type as one fired on February 24, which was apparently part of a periodic training exercise.

    South Korea and the United States had said North Korea appeared set to test a missile within days, after the communist state declared a maritime exclusion zone.

    The North declared the exclusion zone in the Sea of Japan from March 8-11, in what was seen as a strong sign it was planning its second missile test in two weeks.

    Tensions have mounted on the Korean peninsula since US officials said last October that North Korea had admitted to enriching uranium in violation of a 1994 accord and escalated when Pyongyang withdrew from a nuclear non-proliferation pact.

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