Sunday, July 5, 2009

China urges calm after North Korea strikes

( -CHINA has urged calm after North Korea test-fired seven missiles off its east coast in an act of defiance apparently timed for the US Independence Day holiday.

"China ... hopes that all sides will maintain calm and restraint, and jointly safeguard peace and stability in the region," foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said.

The launch of the ballistic missiles -- which the North is banned from firing under UN resolutions -- yesterday further fuelled tensions after the reclusive state conducted a nuclear test in May.

On Thursday the North test-fired four short-range missiles with a range of 120km into the Sea of Japan.

The US, Britain, France, Japan and Australia have condemned the latest launches, which come after a series of bellicose moves by North Korea this year.

US and South Korean officials believe ailing leader Kim Jong-Il, 67, is staging a show of strength to bolster his authority as he tries to put in place a succession plan involving his youngest son, Kim Jong-Un.

A long-range rocket launch on April 5 was followed by a nuclear test -- the second since 2006 -- on May 25.

In the days after its atomic test, Pyongyang fired six short-range missiles, renounced the truce in force on the Korean peninsula for half a century and threatened possible attacks on Seoul.

China, as North Korea's main ally, has long favoured cautious diplomacy with its neighbour.

But it supported a United Nations resolution, adopted in response to North Korea's nuclear test, calling for beefed up inspections of air, sea and land shipments going to and from North Korea, and an expanded arms embargo.

From correspondents in Beijing
Agence France-Presse

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