North, South Korea Differ on Success of Missile Test
by VOA News April 23, 2016
North Korea confirmed Sunday that it had conducted a submarine-launched ballistic missile test supervised by leader Kim Jong Un.
The North Korean state news agency KCNA declared Saturday's test a "great success," even as the official news agency in rival South Korea claimed just the opposite.
South Korean military officials told the Yonhap news agency that the missile flew for about 30 kilometers and that the test did not appear to have been success.
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said a projectile had been fired from a submarine toward the sea. A South Korean military spokesman said Seoul was keeping close tabs on the North Korean military and maintaining a full defense posture.
North Korea has sent a barrage of missiles and artillery shells into the sea amid ongoing annual military drills between the United States and South Korea. Pyongyang says the drills are a preparation for an invasion of the North.
The U.S. State Department noted that ballistic missile launches by North Korea violate multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions.
"We call on North Korea to refrain from actions that further destabilize the region and focus instead on taking concrete steps toward fulfilling its commitments and international obligations," said State Department spokesman John Kirby, as quoted by The Associated Press.
A halt to tests?
North Korea's foreign minister told the AP in an interview later Saturday that his country was ready to halt its nuclear tests if the United States suspended the annual exercises.
Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong, in his first interview with a Western news organization, reiterated Pyongyang's long-standing position that the U.S. drove his country to develop nuclear weapons as a deterrent.
"Stop the nuclear war exercises in the Korean Peninsula, then we should also cease our nuclear tests," he said.
North Korea has floated similar proposals to Washington in the past, but the U.S. has insisted the North give up its nuclear weapons program first before any negotiations. The result has been a stalemate between the two countries and continued belligerence from the reclusive state.
Hours earlier, the North Korean newspaper Rodong Sinmun published a statement saying South Korean President Park Geun-hye should make her "funeral shroud."
Pyongyang has been working to acquire submarine-launched ballistic missile capability.
Saturday's test-firing came as North Korea has been preparing for a rare ruling party congress in May, the first since 1980.
The United Nations recently imposed new, stronger sanctions on North Korea in response to Pyongyang's fourth nuclear test in January and a ballistic missile test the following month.
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