Russia’s Foreign Ministry yesterday expressed concern over the August 31 launching by North Korea of a medium-range ballistic missile–part of which apparently fell into Russian waters in the Sea of Japan and part of which flew over Japanese territory. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin said yesterday that Russian authorities were seeking details of the launch from the North Korean government. Russia’s Pacific Fleet, meanwhile, announced that it had no plans to send out vessels in search of debris from the Taepo Dong 1 medium-range missile. (Russian agencies, September 1)
Yesterday’s reports out of Russia appeared to signal some continued confusion among Russian authorities over the North Korean missile launch. That confusion was suggested a day earlier when the headquarters of Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces admitted that it had not detected the launch of the ballistic missile by North Korea. (Itar-Tass, August 31) Moreover, the commander of the Russian missile forces, General Vladimir Yakovlev, said that the missile had been launched accidentally by the North Koreans while its engines were being inspected. (UPI, August 31) An unnamed officer attached to the missile forces’ main headquarters, meanwhile, described the launch as abortive. He said the missile had deviated from its intended flight path. The officer also said that the North Koreans had not informed Russia about the intended launch. (Itar-Tass, August 31)
The test-firing has raised concerns of new missile proliferation dangers in Asia. The launching has simultaneously threatened to scuttle a fragile international agreement under which the United States, Japan, South Korea, and the European Union were to finance the construction of two light-water nuclear reactors in North Korea. Finally, the launching has outraged Japan, which said yesterday it would break off diplomatic talks with Pyongyang and refuse to provide food aid for North Korea. (Reuter, AP, Washington Post, September 1)
BRIBES BEHIND ARREST OF RUSSIA’S FIRST DEPUTY FINANCE MINISTER.