SEOUL, South Korea, (AP) – North Korea launched tests Tuesday of two more short-range missiles a day after detonating a nuclear bomb underground, a news report said, pushing the regime’s confrontation with world powers further despite the threat of U.N. Security Council action.
Two missiles — one ground-to-air, the other ground-to-ship — with a range of about 80 miles (130 kilometers) were test-fired from an east coast launch pad, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported, citing an unnamed government official.
South Korean spy chief Won Sei-hoon had informed lawmakers earlier Tuesday that a missile test was likely, according to the office of Park Young-sun, a legislator who attended the closed-door briefing.
Yonhap reported that North Korea was preparing to launch a third missile from a west coast site, again citing an unnamed official.
North Korea appeared to be displaying its might a day after conducting an underground atomic test in the northeast that the U.N. Security Council condemned as a “clear violation” of a 2006 resolution banning the regime from developing its nuclear program.
France called for new sanctions, while the U.S. and Japan pushed for strong action against North Korea for testing a bomb that Russian officials said was comparable in power to those that obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.
South Korea, meanwhile, announced it would join a maritime web of more than 90 nations that intercept ships suspected of spreading weapons of mass destruction — a move North Korea warned would constitute an act of war.
North Korea had threatened in recent weeks to carry out a nuclear test and fire long-range missiles unless the Security Council apologized for condemning Pyongyang’s April 5 launch of a rocket the U.S., Japan and other nations called a test of its long-range missile technology. The North has said it put a satellite into orbit as part of its peaceful space development program.
Monday morning’s nuclear test appeared to catch the world by surprise, but Won told lawmakers that Beijing and Washington knew Pyongyang was planning a test some 20-25 minutes before it was carried out, said Choi Kyu-ha, an aide to lawmaker Park.
Won said Pyongyang warned it would test the bomb unless the head of the Security Council offered an immediate apology. Russia said the test went off at 9:54 a.m. local time (0054 GMT) Monday. Won confirmed that two short-range missile tests from an east coast launch pad followed.
Yonhap reported that three missile tests were carried out Monday, and two more Tuesday.
North Korea’s neighbors and their allies scrambled to galvanize support for strong, united response to Pyongyang’s nuclear belligerence.
President Barack Obama and South Korea’s Lee Myung-bak “agreed that the test was a reckless violation of international law that compels action in response,” the White House said in a statement after the leaders spoke by telephone. They also vowed to “seek and support a strong United Nations Security Council resolution with concrete measures to curtail North Korea’s nuclear and missile activities.”
Obama also spoke with Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, the White House said, with the leaders agreeing to step up coordination with South Korea, China and Russia.
Obama reiterated the U.S. commitment to defend both South Korean and Japan, U.S. and South Korean officials said.
North Korea responded by accusing the U.S. of hostility, and said Tuesday that its army and people were ready to defeat any American invasion.
“The current U.S. administration is following in the footsteps of the previous Bush administration’s reckless policy of militarily stifling North Korea,” the North’s main Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in commentary carried by the country’s official Korean Central News Agency.
In Japan, which suffered the devastation of two atomic bombs in 1945, the lower house of parliament quickly passed an unanimous resolution condemning the test and demanding that North Korea give up its nuclear program, a house spokeswoman said.
“This reckless act, along with the previous missile launch, threatened peace and stability in the region, including Japan,” the resolution said.
“North Korea’s repeated nuclear tests posed a grave challenge to international nuclear nonproliferation,” it said. “Japan, the only nation to suffer atomic attacks, cannot tolerate this.” Japan is considering tightening sanctions against North Korea, the statement said.
Russia, which called the test a “serious blow” to the effort to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, suspended a Russia-North Korean intergovernmental trade and economic commission, apparently in response to the nuclear test. The slap on the wrist was a telling indication that Moscow, once a key backer of North Korea, was unhappy with Pyongyang.
Seoul reacted to the nuclear test by joining the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative, joining 94 nations seeking to intercept ships suspected of carrying nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, materials to make them, or missiles to deliver them.
North Korea for years has warned the South against joining the U.S.-led blockade. The Rodong Sinmun last week said South Korea’s participation would be “nothing but a gambit to conceal their belligerence and justify a new northward invasion scheme.”
Joining the PSI would end in Seoul’s “self-destruction” it said.
In Beijing, the defense chiefs of South Korea and China were holding a security meeting Tuesday, South Korean officials said.
South Korean Defense Minister Lee Sang-hee and China’s Gen. Liang Guanglie were expected to discuss ways to respond to the nuclear test, Cho Baek-sang, international policy director at the Ministry of National Defense in Seoul, was quoted as saying by Yonhap news agency.
China said Monday it “resolutely opposed” North Korea’s test and called on Pyongyang to return to talks on ending its atomic programs.