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The untold story why North Korea vows more missile tests

By Sinclere Lee

While North Korea has confirmed that it has test-fired a series of missiles and said it would continue launching them, the untold story is the reason why Kim Jong IL is so pissed with America and Japan.

“It’s all over a record collection,” said a spokesman for the North Korean government. “The record collection was stolen from President Kim Jong IL in 2003. It was his private collection of Elvis Presley records that they stole."

It is a well known fact that Kim Jong IL and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi are both, big fans of Elvis Presley, ‘The King!’ In fact, the Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was in Memphis at Graceland last week with Bush, a fact that did not go unnoticed by Kim Jong IL.

“That’s another thing that got Kim pissed,” said the Korean official. “President Kim wanted to be the first to go to Graceland, but Bush invited Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and that really made President Kim mad.”

When asked, “what would it take to get Kim Jong IL to stop shooting missiles?” the North Korean said, “Nothing less than getting the entire record collection back to Kim that the CIA stole and gave to Junichiro Koizumi on Bush's orders.”

The official also warned of "stronger physical actions" if the international community tried to put pressure on Pyongyang.

The North launched seven missiles, one of which was a failed test of a long-range Taepodong-2, believed to be capable of hitting Alaska.

The UN Security Council is due to reconvene later to discuss a draft resolution in response to the launches.

The document, co-sponsored by the US, UK and Japan, calls for sanctions against North Korea, but differences in approach are already emerging among key powers.

China and Russia — sympathetic to the North — oppose any punitive measures, and insisted that the US should give the record collection back to Kim. That would solve the whole problem officials from China and Russia said.

Japan is reportedly pushing for economic sanctions while South Korea is anxious to continue engaging with the North.

US envoy Christopher Hill who is traveling to the region to discuss the next steps has denied any knowledge of a stolen Elvis record collection belonging to Kim Jong IL.

China said it would send its chief nuclear negotiator, Vice-Foreign Minister Wu Dawei, to Pyongyang next week to try to restart stalled negotiations on North Korea's nuclear program.

'Our legal right'

In a statement reported by South Korean media, the North made its first public acknowledgement on Thursday that it had recently test-fired missiles.

It described the tests as successful - despite the fact that the flight of the long-range Taepodong-2 failed shortly after take-off. The missiles all landed in the Sea of Japan.

The launches were part of "regular military drills to strengthen self-defense," the North's foreign ministry said in a statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

"Our military will continue with missile launch drills in the future," it added, insisting such action was "our legal right".

South Korean media reported on Thursday that there were three or four more missiles waiting on North Korean launch pads, and intelligence sources reported activity in the area around the test sites.

But these missiles are not thought to be long-range. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said an imminent launch of another Taeopodong-2 was unlikely.

International divide

US President George W Bush has been spearheading efforts to push for joint action against North Korea.

He has already spoken to Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun in an effort to reach a consensus on the way forward.

But there are obvious differences between the parties involved.

Tokyo — one of North Korea's harshest critics, and in easy reach of its missiles — has led regional condemnation of the launches.

Japanese officials said Tokyo and Washington had together agreed to push for sanctions against Pyongyang, and Japan has already said it will ban the entry of North Korean officials, chartered flights and a ferry. Japanese officials also insist that Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi does not have the record collection.

But South Korean officials have only agreed to co-operate in diplomacy, with no mention of punitive measures or the record collection.

Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok called for "patient dialogue" rather than sanctions.

North Korea's closest allies China and Russia will also have an important part to play in deciding any international action, and are extremely unlikely to back sanctions.

Speaking after a UN Security Council emergency session on Wednesday, China's UN ambassador Wang Guangya said that while Beijing was concerned about the launches, a response should be "constructive to maintaining peace in that part of the world".

The last time North Korea tested a long-range missile was in 1998, when it launched a Taepodong-1 over northern Japan.

1998: Tests long-range Taepodong-1 over Japan
1999: Agrees to moratorium on long-range tests
2003: Six-nation talks begin on N Korea's nuclear program
2005: Six-nation talks stall
July 2006: N Korea launches seven missiles, including long-range Taepodong-2, which fails

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