Russia and China urged North
Korea on Thursday to head off a looming diplomatic crisis in its nuclear
negotiations with the rest of the world after reports that Pyongyang is
preparing to test a ballistic missile.
Moscow summoned North Korea's ambassador to explain the U.S. reports which
say Pyongyang has prepared a missile for launch, while China urged North Korea
and Washington to find a breakthrough in talks over North Korea's missile
"It was stressed that any steps that could negatively impact regional
stability and complicate the quest for a way to settle the nuclear problem on
the Korean peninsula were undesirable," Russia's foreign ministry said in a
China appealed for calm on Thursday and said North Korea's claim to have a
sovereign right to test its missiles, and U.S. criticism that a test would
violate existing agreements, were making the problem difficult to resolve.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei said Beijing hoped the parties would
resolve the problem through negotiations.
North Korea said on Wednesday it wanted new direct talks with the United
States. Washington rejected the proposal and demanded Pyongyang return to
stalled multilateral talks aimed at persuading the North to abandon its nuclear
arms programme in return for aid and security promises.
U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said on Thursday Washington
was committed to a diplomatic solution and ready for negotiations.
"We're having consultations here in New York with other members of the
Security Council and other members of the U.N.," Bolton said. "But ... the most
important priority, is to try and persuade North Korea not to launch at all."
The United States has been saying for about a week there is evidence North
Korea may test-fire its Taepodong-2 missile and on Thursday Japan's defence
minister said Tokyo had mobilised naval vessels and aircraft to gather
But in an interview with CNN, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney seemed to
downplay the threat from North Korea's missile programme, saying Pyongyang's
missile capabililties were "fairly rudimentary".
Cheney, according to a transcript of the CNN interview, said North Korea
seems to have improved the range of its missiles but suggested the programme
still lacked sophistication.
Anxiety over the standoff spooked financial markets, pushing the yen down
against the dollar on a rumour -- later denied -- that a U.S. military plane had
crashed in the North.
Spokesmen for U.S. forces in Japan and South Korea as well as for the South
Korean and Japanese military said they had not heard of any plane crash.
The rumour emerged after Pyongyang's KCNA news agency warned that chances of
an aerial conflict with the United States had grown because of U.S. spy flights
over the secretive state.
"The U.S. imperialist warmongers have been intensifying military provocations
against the DPRK (North Korea) of late," KCNA said in a report. "The ceaseless
illegal intrusion of the planes has created a grave danger of military conflict
in the air above the region."
Pentagon officials have declined to say if they would try to shoot down any
North Korean missile, but other U.S. officials have said that is unlikely as the
launch is probably aimed at the open sea.
Six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear programme, joining the two Koreas,
the United States, Japan, China and Russia, have been stalled since