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North Korea Fires Seventh Missile, UN Security Council To Meet

North Korea fired a seventh missile today (Wednesday), hours after its missile tests sparked international condemnation.

Six of the missiles fired were short-range and fell into the Sea of Japan. One was the long-range Taepodong 2 rocket, which is capable of reaching the United States. But that missile failed less than a minute after launch and fell into the Sea of Japan.

North Korea's Foreign Ministry described the missile tests as a matter of national sovereignty. Ministry officials say no country has the right to judge North Korea for carrying out the tests.

The United Nations Security Council holds an emergency session today (Wednesday) at Japan's request to discuss the missile tests.

And a senior U.S. State Department official, (Assistant Secretary of State) Christopher Hill, is heading to the region following telephone discussions with his counterparts in the long-stalled multi-national talks about North Korea's nuclear program.

Satellite photographs have indicated for some time that North Korea was preparing a long-range missile, despite repeated warnings by the United States and Japan that a launch could result in punitive measures against Pyongyang. North Korea's missiles have been a source of considerable diplomatic tension recently, as a result of Pyongyang's declaration that it also possesses nuclear weapons.

The White House says North Korea's missile launches pose no immediate threat to the United States, but nonetheless demonstrate the communist nation's intent to intimidate other states by developing increasingly longer-range weapons.

An official U.S. statement, released several hours after today's (Wednesday's) multiple missile launches became known, says the United States is committed to a peaceful diplomatic solution of the North Korean crisis, but at the same time is ready to take any measures necessary to protect itself and its allies.

Some analysts say the White House appeared to be trying to balance its response to North Korea, by acknowledging the seriousness of the missile tests while also downplaying the gravity of the situation.

Administration officials say President Bush met with his top security advisers as the North Korean launches began. It was late Tuesday in Washington, and also the U.S. Independence Day holiday.

After the strategy sessions, officials say, the president went ahead with his previous plan to watch a traditional fireworks display honoring the nation's birthday.

There also was an informal advance birthday party at the White House for the president, who turns 60 on Thursday.