Hermit North Korea would upset regional security and face greater isolation if it launched a missile, South Korea’s foreign minister said on Thursday amid reports the communist state was planning a rocket launch.
North Korea, which analysts said may be stirring up tension to grab the attention of new U.S. President Barack Obama, will be high on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s agenda when she visits Asia next week, her first trip abroad since taking office.
“If North Korea does launch missiles, it will be a serious threat not only to inter-Korean relations but also to the security of the Korean peninsula and that of the East Asia,” Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan said at a news briefing.
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North Korea has made moves to prepare its longest-range Taepodong-2 missile for a test, U.S. and South Korean news reports said. Officials in Seoul said the secretive state may also be planning to test-fire short-range missiles.
“North Korea’s action would invite its own isolation,” Yu said adding that the North is subject to international bans on ballistic missile launches and U.N. sanctions after it test-fired a barrage of ballistic missiles in 2006.
North Korea has about 800 ballistic missiles with ranges that can hit all of South Korea and most of Japan. Its short-range missiles have a range of about 100-150 km (60-95 miles), which means they can hit all of the Seoul area and many U.S. military bases in South Korea.