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Doubt over N. Korea missile test

The Japanese satellite launch angered North Korea who warned of further missile tests in retaliation.
The Japanese satellite launch angered North Korea who warned of further missile tests in retaliation.

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SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- South Korea has contradicted Japanese military claims made Tuesday saying North Korea had test-fired a short-range, surface-to-ship missile from its western coast.

But Pentagon sources have since reconfirmed the missile launch took place.

Neither Japan nor South Korea are officially confirming the launch.

A South Korean government official said his country did not believe reports that North Korea had tested a missile.

"According to South Korean and U.S. intelligence, there were no signs of any launch," the official told CNN, on condition of anonymity.

Earlier, a Japanese Defense Agency statement said the missile was fired at 10:15 a.m. (0215 GMT). The agency said the non-ballistic missile was launched from the northwestern coast of North Korea.

But later, a top Japanese government official backed off from the statement, saying the launch couldn't be confirmed.

Japan has been concerned about North Korea's missile tests.

Friday, Japan launched two spy satellites to help them detect any outside preparations for ballistic missiles launches in their direction. (Launch angers N. Korea)

The previous North Korean missiles were fired February 24 and March 10. A short-range missile has a range of about 60 kilometers (37 miles).

North Korea says the U.S. is making preparations for an attack after the war in Iraq.
North Korea says the U.S. is making preparations for an attack after the war in Iraq.

North Korea has been testing its short-range, anti-ship KN-01 missile, which is under development.

North Korea announced late last year that a moratorium on missile testing was no longer in effect.

The decision was one of several announced by the North since last October when, U.S. officials say, the North admitted it was secretly pursuing a nuclear weapons program.

North Korea has denied ever making any such statement or admission and says it has no plans to develop nuclear weapons.

Nonetheless since October the North has kicked out U.N. nuclear inspectors; pulled out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty; continued to warn it might drop out of an armistice that stopped the 1953 Korean War; and resumed missile test firings.

In recent weeks, North Korea and the U.S. have both escalated their military movements on the Korean Peninsula.

The U.S. has beefed up its bomber presence in the region and has taken part in annual joint war games with South Korea.

North Korea on Tuesday said the U.S. had conducted more than 220 spy flights over its territory in March, up by around 40 from February.

"This shows that the U.S. imperialists are trying to turn its spearhead of aggression to our republic after war in Iraq," state-run Radio Pyongyang said, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

North Korea has regularly accused U.S. spy planes of entering its airspace and says the surveillance flights, war games and an increased U.S. military presence were all a prelude to an attack against the North.

Last month, in the most direct U.S.-North Korean military contact since the standoff began, four North Korean fighter jets intercepted a U.S. reconnaissance plane in a threatening manner, U.S. officials said.


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