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Defiant North Korea Acknowledges Tests

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il (right) with other senior officials (file photo) (AFP) PRAGUE, July 6, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- North Korea has said it will carry out more missile tests, and has warned of stronger action if opponents try to pressure it. The statement came a day after Pyongyang test-fired seven missiles, sparking condemnation worldwide.

It was the first time North Korea had acknowledged the missile tests, carried out early on July 5.

Pyongyang Resists Interference

Today's statement struck a defiant note. The launches, said the Foreign Ministry, were routine. More would follow in the future. The statement, read on state television, warned opponents not to interfere.

"The DPRK [North Korea] will have no option but to take stronger physical actions of other forms should any other country dare take issue with the exercises and put pressure upon it," the statement said, as read on North Korean state television.

Pyongyang test-fired at least six missiles early on July 5, including a long-range weapon said to be capable of reaching the United States.

Hours later, amid the ensuing international outcry, it fired another one.

UN Security Council Divided

Major powers in the international community met on July 5 in an emergency session of the UN Security Council, but its members are split on how to proceed.

Japan and the United States want a tough Security Council resolution, one that would ban countries from transferring funds and technology that could be used for Pyongyang's missile program.

But China and Russia -- both veto-holding members -- favor a weaker statement without any threat of sanctions.

Part of their fear is that sanctions could prevent a revival of talks on another North Korean issue -- its nuclear arms program.

The Nuclear Question

There have been no six-party talks since last year, and North Korea has since been lobbying -- without success -- for bilateral talks with the United States.

Analysts widely view the missile tests as Pyongyang's attempt to persuade the United States to sit down for those one-on-one talks.

Ted Galen Carpenter, an expert on North Korea at the Cato Institute in Washington, says such talks could be one way forward.

"I suspect we're not going to see any kind of significant breakthrough on either issue until the United States is willing to engage in bilateral talks with North Korea," Galen Carpenter said. "It seems to be something that the North Koreans want very badly, and I think that also has to be a prelude to a normalization of relations. We're never going to get there if we insist on everything being conducted through the multilateral framework of the six-party talks."

Seeking A Diplomatic Reponse

In the meantime, the flurry of diplomatic activity looks set to continue.

The chief U.S. nuclear negotiator, Christopher Hill, is heading to the region and has a meeting scheduled with the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei on July 7.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry is sending its chief negotiator to Pyongyang next week.

UN Security Council members are to resume their debate later today on whether a draft resolution condemning North Korea's missile launches should call for sanctions

(compiled from agency reports)