Japan and South Korea are downplaying the seriousness of a reported missile launch on Sunday by North Korea. Tokyo and Seoul are portraying the reported &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/world/2003/03/10/44191.html ' target=_blank>short-range missile test into the Sea of Japan Sunday as nothing alarming.
Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura spoke on a visit to Washington, and said the short-range missile posed no danger to Japan. In Seoul, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Spokesman Kim Sung-chul agreed Monday the launch was not a threat, publishes VOA News. According to Reuters, a top U.S. intelligence official said last week the North may be able to mount nuclear warheads on missiles, although other officials have played down that suggestion.
North Korea has had a missile program since the 1960s, when the Soviet Union supplied it with missiles.
It started building its own in the 1970s and sees a long-range missile as a critical deterrent to a U.S. attack.
Defense experts say that among developing countries, &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/main/2002/10/19/38385.html ' target=_blank>North Korea is the closest to making an intercontinental ballistic missile. It has made and launched multi-stage missiles and has an arsenal of about 300 to 500 medium-range missiles, they estimate.
It began its first significant sales of missile technology in the mid-1980s and experts said Pyongyang has sold missiles and missile technology to Iran, Pakistan, Syria and Yemen -- earning hundreds of millions of dollars.