N. Korean missile tests seen as threat to Seoul


SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – The top U.S. military commander in South Korea said Monday that last week’s North Korean missile tests were provocative and a threat to Seoul.

Gen. B.B. Bell said that although he welcomed moves by Pyongyang to live up to its commitment to dismantle its nuclear program, the communist country still retains the capability to attack Seoul with conventional artillery and special forces.

“This is a very real threat which cannot be ignored,” he said.

Last week, North Korea test-fired three surface-to-surface missiles that landed in the North’s territorial waters, according to Defense Department officials.

It was the third time in a month that North Korea has test-fired a short-range missile, following launches May 25 and June 7.

Also last week, North Korea said it would move to carry out a promise made in an agreement in February with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the U.S. to shut down its nuclear reactor and allowed U.N. inspectors to visit the facility.

“We are all very hopeful that the North Koreans will live up to the agreement they have made,” Bell told reporters at the National Press Club, referring to the February accord.

AP-ES-07-01-07 2003EDT