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2 Jul, 2009 14:09

North Korea launches short-range missiles

South Korea reports its Northern neighbor has test-fired four short-range missiles. Pyongyang was condemned world-wide for launching nuclear tests in May, and saw additional sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council.

Russia called on North Korea to abstain from actions that may exacerbate the regional situation, Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said.

"The international community clearly defined its political position in the UN Security Council resolution supported by Russia. We have always asked North Koreans to abstain from actions that may exacerbate the situation in the unsteady region, and hamper the search for solutions of the existing problems," Nesterenko told a press briefing on Thursday, commenting on the latest rocket tests by Pyongyang.

Pyongyang launched what it called a ‘satellite’ into orbit on April 5, but the West claimed it had carried out a first missile test and widely condemned North Korea. Shortly afterwards, Sergey Lavrov visited the country trying to convince Pyongyang to return to the negotiation table in six-party nuclear talks, involving Russia. South Korea, China, Japan and the United States. But the visit didn’t appear to be fruitful.

On May 25, Pyongyang carried out real nuclear tests and the United Nations imposed tougher

“World instability is crossing the dangerous edge when countries start to ignore international institutions and these institutions do not have enough power to force these trespassers to adhere to generally accepted rules of order. And the example of it – Pyongyang’s nuclear blackmail,” Mikhail Margelov, the chairman of the International Affairs Committee of the Federation Council.

sanctions on June, 12.

The North had warned Japanese ships to stay away from some areas off its East and West coasts during military exercises lasting until July 11, raising the specter of more tests in the near future.

South Korean media reports suggest the North is likely to fire a series of short-range missiles in the coming days.

Ecological concerns

Meanwhile, Russian ecologists are concerned the tests could be a potential threat to the region.

The place where North Korea borders Russia may be the most peaceful corner of the world – a place where the sun melts fears and the sea washes away all worries. A place where none would ever think of North Korea – if it wasn’t just a few dozen kilometers across the bay.

“Of course, it’s a bit worrying,” says local resident Vladimir Medvedev. “We can feel the tremors here from time to time. Radio waves can’t get through and the harvest gets worse each year – maybe it’s because of rains that come here from their side.”

However, such worries are rare, especially on a sweet summer’s day. While locals still remember a few years ago when debris from a North Korean rocket landed not far from a beach on the Russia side, few are afraid this would happen again. Their concerns are of a different kind.

“I heard that because of the tests, the weather may get worse, so I’m a bit worried about that. I really want to get tanned so we don’t need any clouds here,” says Yana Remennaya, local resident.

While very few here believe that North Korea presents a threat to the region, some have already come up with contingency plans.

“In case of radioactive contamination, you need to drink 100 grams of vodka and relax. I learned that from my parents, who are doctors,” says local Maksim Ligai.

Such a relaxed approach seems to have rubbed off even on South Korean tourists. A couple of newly-weds are more concerned about their budget than North Korean rockets.

“I think North Korea’s threats are empty. They are trying to scare the world to get a better deal for themselves. But I don’t think they would ever strike us. Actually, I don’t care about tests, what I’m really concerned about is the economy,” says South Korean tourist Yun Soo Young.

While Pyongyang’s nuclear tests may be the last thing on people’s minds on the beach, they have a reason to be concerned. The North Korean border is about 50 kilometers away and, according to meteorologists, it would take less than two hours for a nuclear cloud to reach here from the Korean peninsula.

With Russia and North Korea sharing both land and sea borders, Pyongyang’s nuclear games may be just a bit too close for comfort.