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U.S. officials: North Korea tests long-range missile

North Korea tested a long-range missile and several smaller missiles, U.S. sources told CNN.



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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- North Korea test-fired a long-range missile and five shorter-range rockets early Wednesday, but the closely watched long-range test failed within a minute, U.S. officials said.

The tests began shortly after 3:30 a.m. local time (2:30 p.m. Tuesday ET) and lasted for about five hours.

The Taepodong-2 missile, which some analysts believed capable of hitting the western United States, failed after about 40 seconds, U.S. officials said.

The U.N. Security Council planned to meet Wednesday morning to discuss North Korea's actions.

North Korean Foreign Ministry officials confirmed the tests Wednesday to reporters for two Japanese broadcasters, NHK and TV Tokyo.

U.S. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley described the missile launches as "provocative behavior," but said they posted no immediate threat to the United States.

Washington dispatched Christopher Hill, its top negotiator in the six-party talks with the two Koreas, Japan, China and Russia, to consult with U.S. allies in Asia after the tests, Hadley said.

Hill has been the top U.S. negotiator in the six-party talks aimed at convincing North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program.

A statement from the White House said the United States "strongly condemns" the launches and North Korea's "unwillingness to heed calls for restraint from the international community."

"We are consulting with international partners on next steps," the statement said.

"This provocative act violates a standing moratorium on missile tests to which the North had previously committed."

The United States and Japan had urged Pyongyang to stick with the moratorium on long-range missile tests it declared in 1999, after it fired a Taepodong-1 missile over Japan in 1998.

"We can now examine what the launches tell us about the intentions of North Korea," Hadley told reporters.

Washington and North Korea's Asian neighbors have been trying to convince North Korea to give up its nuclear program since 2002. Analysts called the tests an effort by North Korea to redirect attention to those talks.

"North Korea's point here is that they have capabilities, growing capabilities, and that they should be taken in a very serious way," said Wendy Sherman, a former State Department official who held talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il during the Clinton administration.

Watching preparations

Intelligence agencies around the region had been watching preparations for the long-range test, but the shorter-range missiles were launched from a different site. At least four of those missiles were variants of the Soviet-era Scud series, with ranges estimated from about 100 to over 600 miles.

The Taepodong-2 landed about 200 miles west of Japan in the Sea of Japan, a U.S. military source said.

A spokesman for South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun said after a National Security Council meeting Wednesday that North Korea must take responsibility for events resulting from its firing of the missiles.

Shinzo Abe, Japan's chief Cabinet secretary, said the test was a source of "grave concern."

Abe said Japan, which provides an extensive amount of food aid to North Korea, would respond to the tests with a strong protest. Japan has previously suggested it would withhold some of that aid or limit trade with Pyongyang if North Korea conducted a test.

A Japanese foreign ministry press official, Akira Chiba, told CNN that Japan was studying "stern measures" and these would be announced shortly.

Jim Walsh, a national security analyst at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said the intent of the test appeared to be aimed at drawing attention back to North Korean demands in the six-party talks. But Walsh said the tests "do not represent an immediate military threat to the United States."

'Difficult technology'

"It's very difficult technology. They very clearly have not mastered it," he said. "Most estimates are they will not master it for another 10 years."

A senior State Department official said a response would be coordinated among the remaining members of the talks, with Japan likely to take the lead. But the Bush administration does not want to "overplay" the tests, the official said.

At the United Nations, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said he was "urgently consulting" with other members of the 15-nation Security Council.

President Bush met with Hadley, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as the tests were going on, a senior administration official said. But Bush will go ahead with plans to watch Independence Day fireworks and hold a gathering at the White House for his 60th birthday, the official said.

State Department officials said Tuesday that fuel trucks had departed the site where the Taepodong-2 had been set on a launch pad, indicating that a test may have been near.

And on Monday, North Korea's state-run media accused the United States of harassing it and vowed to respond to any pre-emptive attack "with a relentless annihilating strike and a nuclear war with a mighty nuclear deterrent." (Watch why North Korea is talking about annihilating the U.S. -- 2:04)

The White House has dismissed that threat as "hypothetical." (Full story)

But the U.S. Northern Command increased security measures at its Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station in Colorado Springs, Colo., a few weeks ago, a military official confirmed Tuesday.

The base is the seat of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, and some of its command-and-control operations might have been used if the United States attempted to use its ballistic missile interceptors -- which have a mixed record of success -- to shoot down a potential Taepodong-2 test.

Rick Lehner, a spokesman for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, told CNN that two interceptor missiles were activated at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in anticipation of the test and could have been fired by controllers at NORAD. Lehner said nine other interceptors were activated at Fort Greely, Alaska.

CNN's David Ensor, Barbara Starr, Kyra Phillips, Elise Labott, Justine Redman, Atika Shubert, Sohn Jie-Ae, Stan Wilson and Ed Henry contributed to this report

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