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Japan to take N. Korea launches to U.N.

U.S. official calls tests 'provocative' but not a direct threat



North Korea
United States

TOKYO, Japan (CNN) -- Japan will protest North Korea's missile test launches to the U.N. Security Council, Japan's chief Cabinet secretary said, and the United States called the tests "provocative."

The North Korea missile launches will be the first item on the agenda at a Wednesday morning meeting, according to U.N. officials.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said Wednesday morning in Tokyo that the tests were a source of "grave concern."

In a statement issued late Tuesday in Washington, the White House said it "strongly condemns these missile 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 the United States will "take all necessary measures to protect ourselves and our allies."

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

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

Abe said Japan, which provides an extensive amount of food aid to North Korea, was launching a serious protest of the tests and planned to use all diplomatic options at its disposal.

But he stopped short of announcing sanctions against North Korea, saying the government wanted to gather all the facts about North Korea's actions before making that decision.

Japan previously has suggested it would withhold some of that aid or limit trade with Pyongyang if North Korea conducted a test.

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

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.

"There has been discussion ... that if North Korea went forward it would be appropriate for the Security Council to consider this issue," he said.

He said U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would be discussing that possibility in diplomatic calls Sunday evening.

"I think you're going to see a lot of diplomatic activity here over the next 24, 48 hours," Hadley said.

Washington dispatched Christopher Hill, its top negotiator in the six-party talks with North Korea, to consult with U.S. allies in Asia after the tests, Hadley said. Hill has been the top U.S. negotiator in the talks aimed at convincing North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program.

White House spokesman Tony Snow told reporters that U.S. officials had been in contact with counterparts in China, Japan and South Korea.

"The North Koreans have once again isolated themselves. They have defied their neighbors who urged them not to have a launch," Snow said.

"The United States now will work with the other parties in the six-party talks to figure out the appropriate way to move forward," Snow said.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard also called the tests "extremely provocative," according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp. (Full story)

"China has more influence on North Korea than any other country, and I hope that China uses that influence. And that is a view that I put in very strong terms to the Chinese premier when I raised this matter," Howard was quoted as saying.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Wednesday he had told North Korea's ambassador in Australia of his "deep disappointment" over the tests, which he said cast serious doubts over North Korea's "genuine willingness to engage the international community."

Downer released a statement saying Australia would cancel a planned visit to North Korea by a senior official from his department, and would further restrict travel to Australia by North Korean officials.

CNN's Atika Shubert contributed to this report.

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